Down key contributors on the defensive line in Dion Jordan (shoulder), Isaac Remington (ankle), Wade Keliikipi (leg), and Ricky Heimuli (knee) last Saturday at Cal, the Ducks were at times forced to play three true freshmen in the defensive trenches (Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Alex Balducci); a grim reality that was reflected in kind by the Golden Bears' 236 yards gained on the ground. While the team is quietly optimistic that they will return Jordan, Remington, and Heimuli this upcoming weekend for their home tilt versus No. 13 Stanford, the Cardinal aren't necessarily a team you seek out to "get right" against. Despite having to replace current NFL offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro from last year's team, Stanford has "reloaded" upfront according to Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.
Oregon junior defensive back Avery Patterson will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL at California last Saturday.
"They didn't rebuild, they reloaded," said Kelly. "That's one of the strengths of their team offensively, it's always been their offensive line. They lost two good kids in DeCastro and Martin, but there's some real good athletes running around up there that have played a lot of good football.
"That battle between their o-line and our d-line is going be a real interesting thing to watch on Saturday."
When asked if he felt like the game reps his second and third stringers have received in blowouts this season have been effective in managing in the injuries the Ducks have faced along the defensive line, Kelly stated that he was hopeful that it has.
"That's what we hope for cause there weren't many options left," said Kelly of giving reps to the less experienced members of his defense earlier in the season. "[That is] kind of one of the bi-products of winning some of those games early and getting a lot of guys reps...They had been in games before and they've got an understand [of how to play] and we've had an opportunity to correct some mistakes and all that. That is the bi-product of what we had done earlier in the season that will benefit us as we move forward here."
Oregon hopes early season reps begin to pay off in the secondary as well, as news broke following practice this afternoon that junior defensive back Avery Patterson is lost for the season after tearing his ACL in the Ducks' 59-17 win over Cal. Sophomore Erick Dargan has experience is the likely replacement for Patterson at his safety position, but Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti admitted that depth in the defensive backfield is being severely tested.
"We're getting thinner," said Aliotti. "But we'll find a way to make this work."
"[Dargan's] playing a lot of positions. He's playing corner, he's playing nickel, he's playing safety, he's playing rover; the fact that his scale of intelligence [is high] has helped us tremendously...[The secondary] has got to know [all the positions]. We're to the point where they need to know how to play nickel, rover, free safety, and corner."