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Preseason camp preview: Linebackers
Release Date: 07/30/2014
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By Rob Moseley

Analyzing where things appear to stand at each position group entering preseason camp, based on developments last season, in the spring and over the summer.

OLB: Tony Washington, Sr.; Tyson Coleman, Jr.; Cody Carriger, So.; Ryan McCandless, Jr.; Ivan Faulhaber, RFr.
ILB: Rodney Hardrick, Jr.; Danny Mattingly, RFr.; Isaac Ava, Sr.
ILB: Derrick Malone, Sr.; Joe Walker, Jr.; Jimmie Swain, Fr.; Grant Thompson, Sr.
OLB: Christian French, Jr.; Torrodney Prevot, So.; Eddie Heard, So.; Justin Hollins, Fr.; Mike Garrity, Sr.; Johnny Ragin III, So.

The veterans: The Ducks return a pool of talented, experienced linebackers, and that despite weathering some attrition this offseason. Derrick Malone is the headliner after leading the team with 105 tackles last season, and middle linebacker Rodney Hardrick is Oregon’s third-leading returning tackler after 65 in 2013. Tony Washington led the Ducks with 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season, and Christian French, Tyson Coleman and Torrodney Prevot all provide experience at outside linebacker as well.

The offseason losses do leave things thin on the inside, where Joe Walker is the only true experienced reserve. Redshirt freshman Danny Mattingly impressed on the scout team last fall, and he has the chance to carry that over into games this season. Cody Carriger, Ryan McCandless, Ivan Faulhaber, Isaac Ava, Grant Thompson and Mike Garrity have primarily been scout-team players to this point in their respective careers. The wild card here is Johnny Ragin III, who is in line to redshirt after transferring from Cal, but who has explored the option of appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility with the Ducks.

The newcomers: With numbers down inside, true freshman Jimmie Swain could find his way onto the field soon. Mark Helfrich mentioned on signing day Swain might have a chance to play on special teams this fall, if nothing else. Eddie Heard was a late addition out of junior college, and with his size, perhaps he could get some reps inside too? Justin Hollins, at 6-foot-6, fits the mold of fellow towering outside ‘backers Washington (6-3), French (6-5) and Carriger (6-6).

What to watch: After a transition year following the loss of Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay, the linebackers have the potential to be a real impact unit in 2014. Combine the experience Washington, Hardrick, Malone and Walker now boast with new coordinator Don Pellum’s edict that he will tailor the defense to help guys play faster, and more big plays could be the result. The Ducks forced 29 turnovers in 2013, down 11 from the year before, and their 70 tackles for loss were 12 fewer than any of the previous six years – going back to their national-best 122 in 2007. The pieces are in place for those numbers to jump back up in 2014.

The lone “position battle” is for the job replacing Boseko Lokombo across from Washington. French held that spot down in the spring, but he figures to face a fierce challenge from Coleman, Prevot and others.

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