Confidence, Strength and Togetherness

When a man who has the size of Haloti Ngata (6-4, 345) says that he is bigger, strong and faster, you take notice. You take even more notice when he says that he's ready to go out and hit somebody. <br><br> "I can't wait to hit somebody," Ngata said at Media Day on Wednesday about the start of fall camp. "I miss it so much. I just need to hit something."

Ngata missed all but a few of the opening minutes of the first game last season with an injured knee. This season he is completely healed from his injury and not only says he's bigger, stronger and faster, he looks it too. Ngata spent the entire off-season working hard to regain his dominating presence and he also has aspirations of leading his teammates.

I've been here for three years," explains the soft-spoken Ngata. "The coaches and I think I should be a leader on the D-line. I hope the other D-linemen will follow."

It is hard to imagine anyone not following such an imposing figure.

Ngata along with senior defensive tackle Robby Valenzuela, senior defensive end Chris Solomona and junior defensive end Devan Long figure to be leaders and starters for the defensive line this year. Most teams would figure losing three players (Igor Olshansky, Junior Siavii and Quinn Dorsey) off the starting defensive line to the NFL would be devastating, but talking to several of this year's players, one gets the impression there is a lot of confidence going into the season.

"Having Haloti back and Robby healthy helps so many ways," observed Solomona. "It is going to be amazing. Our first, second and our third (stinging) are really good players."

Solomona hopes to have a big year. Coming out of high school, he was one of the top defensive recruits nationally. He initially signed a letter of intent to play for the Washington Huskies, but was sidetracked and ended up at El Camino Community College instead. After spending two years at El Camino, Solomona was again a 5-star recruit when he signed with the Ducks. Last year was a learning experience for the aggressive end, and during spring drills he always seemed to be in on the big plays. During the off-season he stayed in Eugene, concentrating on working out with strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe. Solomona believes he did not give himself as good a chance as he could have last year. With the credentials he has, is there NFL plans in his future?

"I'm focusing on this year," said a suddenly more serious Solomona. "I felt like last year I didn't get my opportunity because I wasn't physically or mentally prepared. This year I am ready physically and mentally."

And what about those big plays he seems to get in on all the time? Part of it is due to the fans.

"A lot has to do with the crowd," Solomona said with a grin. "Once I hear the crowd get going, it gets me fired up. If I see a big play, it makes me want to go out and make a big play."

The Ducks can boast of having depth on the defensive line with at least eight players. Newcomer David Faaeteete, 6-2, 299, from North Medford High School is familiar with the schemes the Ducks run because it is similar to what his high school team did last year, however the players are a different caliber.

"These guys are big and strong," Faaeteete said of his new teammates. "Bigger and faster than anybody I've ever played against."

Faaeteete may have a shot at playing time and he has the competitiveness in him to make that happen. He along with fellow incoming freshman Ra'Shon Harris, 6-5, 297, will nicely round out the depth at defensive tackle.

One theme that continues to echo among the big men on the defensive line is the Duck family. They workout together, hangout together and grieve together.

"The team is so supportive of everything we do," said Ngata of the camaraderie. "It hit me again when I heard about Terrance Kelly, I want to play for him."

The Ducks will need all the confidence, strength, and togetherness the can muster as they prepare for the season. Oregon will open at Autzen Stadium against Indiana on September 11th.

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