ESPN Senior Writer Adam Rittenberg released his top 25 future defenses power rankings, assessing the next three seasons to predict the dominant defenses in college football.
The Oregon Ducks slid into the rankings at No. 14, good for second in the Pac-12 behind Utah at 12. Oregon ranked No. 6 in Rittenberg's rankings in 2021. While the Oregon defense looks to be a strong unit in the coming years, it may take some time to get to that level with a brand new system and defensive-minded coaching staff.
The departure of veterans like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Verone McKinley III, and DJ James will force some of the added four and five-star talent in recent recruiting classes to step in and contribute immediately. But in a couple years, the Oregon defense could be one of the best in the sport.
As for 2022, the Ducks will have a stable of veterans at every level to give Dan Lanning and Tosh Lupoi's defense an identity. Noah Sewell, Brandon Dorlus, Bennett Williams, and others headline the stars on this edition of the Ducks defense.
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Noah Sewell vs. Fresno State
Sewell celebrates a tackle against the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Brandon Dorlus vs. UCLA
Dorlus sporting Oregon's "eggshell" uniforms against the UCLA Bruins.
Bennett Williams vs. Stony Brook
Williams returns an interception against Stony Brook.
Rittenberg had this to say about the future of the Oregon defense led by Lanning and Lupoi:
"The unit has been on a solid trajectory but enters a transition period with coach Dan Lanning's arrival and the departure of standout end Kayvon Thibodeaux, playmaking safety Verone McKinley III and others. Lanning proved himself as both a tactician and a recruiter at Georgia, and should continue predecessor Mario Cristobal's momentum in attracting top defenders to Eugene. The immediate forecast is a bit murky, but Oregon returns a foundational piece in sophomore linebacker Noah Sewell, who last fall had a team-high 114 tackles, ranked second behind Thibodeaux in sacks (4), and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2). Sewell is surrounded by non-senior linebackers whom Oregon needs to emerge, such as junior Mase Funa, redshirt freshman Justin Flowe, sophomores Keith Brown and Treven Ma'ae and others. Sophomore Bradyn Swinson is listed at defensive end but could play outside linebacker for Lanning and coordinator Tosh Lupoi after recording three sacks and making a start in 2021.
There's some experience up front with senior tackle Popo Aumavae, junior end Brandon Dorlus and sophomore tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson, but all three missed time this spring following surgeries, allowing others to get more field time. The development of players such as sophomore tackle Sua'ava Poti, sophomore end Brandon Buckner and junior tackle Sam Taimani, a transfer from Washington, will help the long-term depth. Safeties Bennett Williams (three interceptions in 2021), Jamal Hill (seven starts in 2021) and Steve Stephens IV (eight starts) will lead a somewhat new-look secondary this fall. The cornerback spot has new faces, including Colorado transfer Christian Gonzalez and fellow sophomores Trikweze Bridges (three starts in 2021) and Dontae Manning (18 tackles as a reserve). Oregon should get most of its DB rotation back next fall, and added ESPN 300 recruits Jahlil Florence and Trejon Williams."
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