Skip to main content

Season In Review: Defensive Line

Jan 19, 2021

Reviewing Oregon's 2020 season and looking ahead to spring drills.

DEPTH CHART
DT: Austin Faoliu, Sr.; Brandon Dorlus, So.; Keyon Ware-Hudson, RFr.; Sua'ava Poti, RFr.; Louie Cresto, Fr.
DT: Jordon Scott, Sr.; Popo Aumavae, Jr.; Kristian Williams, RFr.; Jayson Jones, Fr.; Maceal Afaese, Fr.; Isaia Porter, RFr.
DE: Kayvon Thibodeaux, So.; Bradyn Swinson, Fr.; Isaac Townsend, RFr.; Jake Shipley, Fr.

Starters: The Ducks returned a wealth of experience up front in 2020, though it took a few weeks for the defense to really lock in and demonstrate the form it showed in 2019. Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu wrapped up their careers as four-year contributors on the line, and while they weren't able to finish off as many sacks as they hoped, the duo combined for 35 tackles in seven games. The other mainstay up front was sophomore Kayvon Thibodeaux, who continued his development into one of the nation's elite pass rushers while showing an aptitude for stopping the run as well. He won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's best defensive lineman, in a vote of the league's offensive linemen.

For the season, Oregon allowed about one more yard per rush in 2020 compared to 2019, and averaged about one less sack per game. But the defense stayed committed to improvement throughout the season and played exceptionally well in December. The front seven allowed less than two yards per rush to both California in the regular-season finale and to USC in the Pac-12 Championship game, and combined for seven sacks in those two games. Oregon's young depth played a part in those performances, with Kristian Williams starting both at nose tackle and Brandon Dorlus starting the Pac-12 title game.

Reserves: Williams, Dorlus and classmate Keyon Ware-Hudson all took a step forward in their second season with the Ducks, becoming reliable rotation players in 2020. Popo Aumavae teamed with Williams to back up Scott at nose, and freshman Bradyn Swinson demonstrated his explosiveness off the edge as a backup to Thibodeaux. Isaac Townsend benefited from practice reps with the travel squad, though he didn't get the call in a game during 2020; he opted to transfer after the season.

Developmental squad: Another second-year defensive lineman, Sua'ava Poti, brought his relentless work ethic to the scout-team defense. He helped tutor newcomers Maceal Afaese, Jayson Jones and Jake Shipley, along with non-scholarship additions Louie Cresto and Isaia Porter. Jones is a towering presence in the middle of the line, and Afaese is a broad-shouldered tackle who will be tough to move in the trenches as he continues to develop. Shipley can put his hand on the ground as an end or stand up and rush the passer.

ROB'S TAKE

SPRING PROJECTION
DT: Brandon Dorlus, So.; Keyon Ware-Hudson, RFr.; Sua'ava Poti, RFr.; Keanu Williams, Fr.; Louie Cresto, Fr.
DT: Popo Aumavae, Jr.; Kristian Williams, RFr.; Jayson Jones, Fr.; Maceal Afaese, Fr.; Isaia Porter, RFr.
DE: Kayvon Thibodeaux, So.; Bradyn Swinson, Fr.; Jaylen Smith, Fr.; Jake Shipley, Fr.

What To Watch: It's a changing of the guard on the Oregon defensive line. With Scott and Faoliu moving on, Thibodeaux is the face of the position, and the 2019 recruiting class has a chance to really make its mark in the upcoming season. Dorlus has demonstrated a knack for big plays the last two years, while Ware-Hudson has enhanced his value by taking on multiple positions on the line. The 2020 recruits including Afaese, Jones and Shipley hopefully will have a somewhat normal offseason to develop their strength and conditioning, and they welcome back to the fold Jaylen Smith, who spent 2020 on the offensive line due to depth concerns there. New recruit Keanu Williams is now on hand as well. But the biggest thing to watch come spring will be the impact of Oregon's new defensive coordinator, after the departure of Andy Avalos. Whoever it is, he will have a wealth of young talent to deploy in the fall of 2021.