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Oregon Defensive Players to Watch vs. UCLA

Can the Oregon defense hold Dorian Thompson-Robinson and UCLA in check?

Like any team this season, the Oregon defense has had a lot of highs and lows. The season got started on a high note, defeating Ohio State and at one point leading the nation in turnover margin. 

Now over the past two games, a loss and a win that left something to be desired, the defense has cooled off a bit in terms of forcing turnovers. However the unit is still full of playmakers and is the healthiest it's been since week 1. Keep an eye on these players to have a big game for Oregon in Southern California. 

1. Kayvon Thibodeaux-Defensive End

Kayvon Thibodeaux applies pressure on Cal quarterback Chase Garbers.

Kayvon Thibodeaux applies pressure on Cal quarterback Chase Garbers.

Kayvon Thibodeaux is in line to play his first full game of the season. In week 8. 

You read that right. An ankle injury in the season opener sidelined KT for multiple weeks and then a late targeting call against Stanford held him out of the first half against Cal last week. When he did play though, this defense took things up a notch. 

It goes without saying that getting pressure on the quarterback is something that can change the game, but Thibodeaux absolutely manhandled the Cal offensive line whenever he was on the field. 

Tim DeRuyter will need another big game from him against one of the best offensive lines in the conference, and against one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the conference, who thrives outside the pocket. Thibodeaux's effectiveness will go a long way in determining just how comfortable DTR and the Bruins can get on offense. 

2. Noah Sewell-Linebacker

Sewell awaits the snap against California. 

Sewell awaits the snap against California. 

Sewell seems to land on this list every week and it's with good reason. Aside from Thibodeaux, he's the heart of this defense. He makes sure everyone's lined up in the right spot and he's in on just about every play in some way shape or form.

The reigning Pac-12 freshman of the week just seems to keep getting better and we'll have another chance to see him go against what may be the best competition the conference has to offer.

One of the top weapons at Thompson-Robinson's disposal is tight end Greg Dulcich. He's made a living getting yards after the catch, and Sewell will be called on limit his impact at times in coverage.

What's more, he's one of, if not the best run stopper on Oregon's roster, and he'll need to have a big day on the road if the Ducks hope to slow down the Bruins' lethal rushing attack. 



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3. Popo Aumavae-Defensive tackle

Auamave before the snap vs. Cal.

Auamave before the snap vs. Cal.

With UCLA being such a physical team, the battle in the trenches is going to be a big factor in this game. Aumavae hasn't made a ton of noise on the stat sheet, but that's in part because his job is eating double teams and freeing space for players like Sewell to fly in and stuff runs or blitz the quarterback. 

The defensive line was one of the more uncertain areas of this team before the season, particularly on the interior, so this unit will get a big test when UCLA tries to run it up the gut. If Aumavae can step up and anchor the most heavily contested point of attack, it could take away Chip Kelly's bread and butter, and give the Ducks that much more of a shot at coming away with a win.

Bonus: Bradyn Swinson- Defensive End

Swinson vs. California. 

Swinson vs. California. 

Just as Thibodeaux hasn't played a full game this season, we haven't seen what the defense looks like with both him and Swinson healthy at the same time. If Swinson is really growing into what we think is the next great pass rusher at Oregon behind KT, how great would it be to see them on the field together at the same time?

Mase Funa is expected to be a full go opposite Thibodeaux, but we've seen lots of rotations including Swinson and DJ Johnson as well. The starters haven't been at full strength in some time due to injuries, so having them almost at 100% should give us a better idea of what we really have in store with this year's defense. 

Swinson said he feels even better than he did before injuring his knee and that he's fully confident in it. Let's see if he can take it to another level for his team when he takes the field in one of the biggest games of the week. 

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