Even with the COVID-19 pandemic taking its toll on the world, the college football season for the Pac 12 conference is scheduled to start up in September. The Pac 12 is playing a conference-only schedule this year with 10 games. The delayed schedule with two open dates is a way to try to be flexible with teams in six different states. The defending Pac 12 and Rose Bowl champion Oregon Ducks open the season at home on September 26th against Colorado. This season it looks like the Oregon Ducks front seven is going to key.
Last year was big for Oregon with tons of talent and future NFL draft picks. They parlayed that into a top 15 national recruiting class. That builds up expectations for whatever form of a season 2020 takes. Their recent recruiting success has been particularly notable on defense.
The Oregon Ducks Front Seven
The Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman in the country is already in Eugene. . Offensive lineman Penei Sewell won it last year and is a heavy favorite to be the rare back-to-back winner. But on the defensive side of the ball, Jordan Scott is also on the pre-season watch list. Scott is a senior defensive tackle, who chose to come back to school this year instead of going into the NFL Draft. He is also on the preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the defensive player of the year. He is not the only player from the front seven on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list. Sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is also being looked at for the award. The returning players are a highlight, but the recruits are something to also look forward to as well.
The Ducks have the number one ranked recruiting class in the Pac 12 conference, according to the 247Sports Composite. There is no doubt that signing a good front line of defense, (full pun intended), was part of that. The Ducks are looking to rebound from losing linebacker Troy Dye, who was the team’s leading tackler for last year. They seemd to have re-stocked quite well.
Two of the big recruits to help them are Justin Flowe (Upland, CA), and Noah Sewell (Orem, UT). Both are five- star linebackers. They are both highly ranked, and will be great additions to the Duck’s defensive seven. Last year, the defense recorded over 40 sacks and had the 13th ranked run defense in the nation.
For the second year in a row, the Ducks went down to California and picked up the state’s high school defensive player of the year. Last year it was Thibodeaux. Now it is Justin Flowe. He is from Upland High School, and was also the USA Today High School Defensive Player of the Year. Flowe also won the Dick Butkus Award, for the best high school linebacker in the nation. He has a strong lower body, and plays with an extreme passion for the game. Standing at a 6-2, 225 pounds, he is known to be a big hitter. Scouts say he is one of the more physical football players to come out of California in a while. He sheds blocks well and has worked tremendously on his lateral movement to match his straight line speed. He also uses that same speed to get into the backfield to make plays.
Noah Sewell played his high school football at Orem High School, where he made himself into a 5 star recruit. He now re-joins his older brother Penei. Noah is a thick player in his upper and lower body, as he weighs 266 pounds at 6’2″. However, he is an athlete, who is able to run just as well as the smaller linebackers. He has good footwork, and is able to violently dispose of running backs in the backfield, or carry vertical routes downfield.
The Ducks were also able to get Jayson Jones (Calera, AL), who is a 4 star defensive tackle, to de-commit from Alabama and come to Eugene. He is 6-6 and weighs 340 pounds. That pretty much makes him a space eater who is hard to move. He is also pretty nimble and athletic for a player his size. He is long as well, and can disrupt the pocket. The only downside is that some scouts say he may be better suited for the offensive line. Those reports say he seems to be content at the line of scrimmage too much, and he has an inconsistent motor. However, Oregon has a history of developing players, and if the offensive line is his fate, then I’m sure he’ll be great at it.
Last year Oregon had an explosive offense and impactful defense. This year, with the recruits added to the returning players on defense, that script good flip.