Oregon's Defense A Work In Progress

Sloppy tackling and mental errors marred an otherwise decent performance for Ducks against over-matched South Dakota.

Oregon’s defensive performance left several things in doubt heading into their marquee showdown against Michigan State next week. At times, suspect tackling and the absence of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu seemed to allow the Coyotes the opportunity to move the ball against an Oregon defense that could have and probably should have hung a goose egg on their opponents.

“Defensively, I thought we started okay. I just didn’t like our urgency. When the ball snaps, we need to strap it on and play. That didn’t always occur,” said Coach Mark Helfrich. With all the uncertainty that surrounds the defense and coordinator Don Pellum’s inaugural performance there is one certainty. The defense which played against the Coyotes is not representative of the defense fans will see next Saturday.

With what amounted to a live scrimmage, Oregon sat back primarily in a Cover 3 defensive zone and gave up the underneath passes which allowed South Dakota to chip their way down the field. The Ducks blitzed rarely; but when they did, they found success.

“I would say we were trying to play fast and sound defensively and not over think things too much. They presented some things; some unbalanced formations, some two back-two tight end formations that we would defend differently in an ideal situation going forward,” said Helfrich.

All that said, Oregon’s defensive future is still uncertain. They were able to keep the ‘Yotes off the scoreboard in the second half, including a goal line stand in the waning moments of the game when South Dakota was desperately trying to punch it in from the one yard line.

Oregon did provide some interesting perspective on what we can expect moving forward, however. At times, both Reggie Daniels and Tyree Robinson were playing the safety positions. Erick Dargan had been tabbed as the strong safety but it seems keeping one of them off the field may not be an option moving forward for Coach Don Pellum.

Also, the defensive line accounted for nearly 25% of tackles made including 4 for a loss. This is a bit of a departure from the way the defense has been run in the past. Previously; with Nick Aliotti controlling the defense, the line’s primary task was to occupy the offensive line while line backers came up to make tackles. By the end of the first game, the line and the backers were about even when it came to tackles.

So what does this all mean? Is Oregon’s defense any good? After watching their first game, the jury is regrettably still out. This defense certainly has potential to be good. The physical talent is there, the coaching is there. It will be interesting to see how they put it all together when an opponent who can hit back comes into town.

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