In the days leading up to the 2013 Alamo Bowl, the Emerald will take a unit-by-unit look at Oregon and Texas, determining which team has the edge going into the showdown on Dec. 30 in San Antonio. Today, we’ll look at each team’s defensive lines, with thoughts on Texas from Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation.
The Ducks defensive line is without a doubt an experienced group led by seniors Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi.
Hart, along with teammate Josh Huff accepted a bid to play in this year’s senior bowl. He is the team’s fourth leading tackler with 64 and has contributed three sacks on the season.
Keliikipi, who had one of his best games of the season against Washington in Seattle, finished the regular season with 27 tackles and two sacks.
Junior Tony Washington leads the Ducks in sacks this season with 7.5 and finished with 56 tackles. Also contributing to the Ducks is sophomore Arik Armstead and senior Ricky Havili-Heimuli.
Although Oregon had huge shoes to fill with the departure of Dion Jordan to the NFL, with veteran players, Oregon’s defensive line started the season with the potential to be one of the best lines ever for the Ducks. Although the defense showed potential weakness as they struggled against the run while facing both Arizona and Oregon State, the team finished the regular season with 26 sacks.
The Longhorns are led by all-American Jackson Jeffcoat, who won this year’s Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end. In addition, he was awarded Big-12 defensive player of the year, posting at least one sack in 17 of his last 25 games, and ranking fourth on the FBS in active career sacks list with 26.5.
It’s safe to safe Jeffcoat will be a threat for the Ducks.
“Jeffcoat has been really good. He’s not the strongest guy, he’s not the fastest guy, but he is a good technician and just has a knack for getting to the quarterback,” Eberts said.
Jeffcoat finished the regular season with 12 sacks, which ranks third in the nation, as well as picking up 80 tackles.
Eberts added that the Longhorns play with a three-man line, occasionally using Jeffcoat at the “spinner” position as he sometimes lines up as a middle linebacker. However, Eberts believes that Oregon is too good of a running team for Texas to use that formation a lot.
“It’s easily the most talented unit on the Texas team,” Eberts said regarding Texas’ defensive line.
Although Eberts did add that the loss of Chris Whaley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against West Virginia, was a disadvantage for the Longhorns, they have had others step up at the position.
Also contributing for the line are Malcolm Brown and Desmond Jackson. Brown, who Ebert describes as quick with the ability to make big defensive plays, finished the regular season with 63 tackles and two sacks.
Advantage - Texas. The Ducks offensive line will certainly have their work cut out for them battling against an All-American like Jeffcoat. Texas finished the regular season with 37 sacks and Oregon’s o-line being on the smaller side will make the challenge even more difficult. In addition, Oregon has struggled against the run in the latter portion of the season and the Longhorns are a run-first offense.
Monday: Offensive line
Tuesday: Tight ends
Follow Beth Maiman on Twitter @bethamaiman