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NFL Prospect Focus: Oregon Defense

Though known for their offense, Oregon's defensive players are turning heads this season. Greg Gabriel

Print This November 07, 2013, 05:30 AM EST

Oregon is noted for their offense, but in the last few years they have had their fair share of defensive players drafted high. In last year’s draft, Dion Jordon was a top three selection and linebacker Kiko Alonzo was drafted by Buffalo in the middle of the second round. While I don’t see any of this year’s seniors getting drafted in the first two rounds, could be drafted shortly thereafter.

Taylor Hart – Defensive Tackle

Hart is a fifth year senior and a three year starter for the Ducks. He usually lines up as a 5-technique defensive end in their 3-4, but he has also played on the nose and even stands up some. Hart has adequate size at about 6’6 – 290. I would estimate his speed at about 5.00. He is an average athlete for the position, he has some tightness in his knees and hips, but he is tough and competitive. Hart is a snap to whistle player on EVERY down. I don’t like his stance. He plays from a crouched-up frog like stance that causes him to get a bit tall coming out of his stance. Still, he is strong at the point of attack and can use his hands to shed. He has good instincts and reactions and does a very good job finding the ball. Because of his competitiveness, there are times when he looks like there is no way he can make the play, but he ends up making it just out of desire. He plays double teams well and doesn’t get knocked off the ball. As a pass rusher, he is able to get a push with his strength, but he does not possess many moves and I haven’t seen much production. He is a very good pursuit player who consistently takes good angles to the ball. 

I see Hart as a good rotational type player in a 3-4 defense. While he plays some nose in college, I don’t see him being able to do that at the next level. This is the type of backup defensive lineman that many teams want. He can give his team 20 -25 good snaps a game, and while he won’t start or be a star, he will be a quality rotational player. While he has some athletic limitations, he will still get better with experience. He is a solid mid-round pick who will play early.

Wade Keliikipi – Nose tackle

Like Hart, Keliikipi is a fifth year senior, and a three year starter. He looks and plays bigger than his listed size (6’3 – 306). He is a big, wide body who looks like he is 315+ and is very strong. Like most nose tackles, Keliikipi is not an elite athlete. He does have very good balance, plays with an excellent base, and is rarely off his feet. Because of his size and strength, he can occupy blockers at the point of attack and doesn’t give ground. He shows good hand use to shed and does a good job stuffing inside running plays. He can get some penetration and be disruptive. He is mainly a tackle-to-tackle type player but will occasionally make a pursuit play. While I wouldn’t call him fast, he has good short area quickness and a burst. His change of direction is good for a big guy. Interestingly, Oregon will sometimes play him on his feet and even drop him into coverage, but they give him a very limited area to cover.

On the first few tapes I looked at, I saw Wade as only a run down player. Then, in the Washington game, he got two sacks, showing very good initial quickness as well as some counter moves. He flashes a short burst off blocks to the QB.

Nose tackles have to have a special mentality because they are constantly getting double teamed. Keliikipi seems to have that mentality. I can see him as an eventual starter in the NFL and getting lots of playing time as a rotational player his rookie year. He looks like he can easily play at 320, which would be perfect for a nose in the NFL. He is probably more of a third round pick, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he went late in the second round.

Boseko Lokombo – Outside Linebacker

Lokombo is a fifth year senior and a two year starter at strong side outside linebacker. He will also line up in the middle on some downs. While only a two year starter, he has gotten significant playing time in each of the last four years. Lokombo is a bit small for an OLB. He is listed at being 6’3 – 229. While he is supposed to be weight room strong, he doesn’t carry that weight room strength over to the playing field. His best trait is his athleticism. He is a smooth athlete with body control and speed. He is listed at being a 4.7 guy but plays faster.

On tape he looks to have average instincts. He is not a quick reactor and doesn’t anticipate well. He sees and reacts rather than instinctively get to the ball. While he plays with good effort he is not what I would call a physical player. He does not show strength and power at the point and can be slow to get off blocks. While he is around the ball a lot he doesn’t make a lot of plays. His tackling ability is average. He does wrap up but you seldom see him “go thru” the ball carrier.

Lokombo does have good coverage skills. He gets walked off at times and lined up over the slot. He shows he can play some man coverage and shows awareness in zone. He gets depth with his drops and can transition. As a pass rusher, he is average at best. He doesn’t come hard and lacks moves to slip blocks and the hand use to shed.

Overall, I feel Lokombo is better suited to play in a 4-3 scheme. He doesn’t have the size and power to play in a 3-4 at the NFL level. While I don’t see him as an every down player at this time, I do see him being used as a nickel linebacker because of his cover skills. He is going to have to get stronger, develop his hand use, and become more aggressive if he wants to be an every down type player. I would only draft him late, but there will be teams that will fall in love with his athleticism and draft him higher.

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