Kayvon Thibodeaux eyes Heisman, will play more OLB for Ducks

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Dylan Mickanen
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Kayvon Thibodeaux eyes Heisman, to play more OLB for Ducks originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

Get ready, Ducks fans!

Kayvon Thibodeaux, who already has played himself into a likely top-ten NFL Draft pick, wants to show he's the nation's best player this upcoming season.

"One of my goals is to win the Heisman," he said during Tuesday's media session. 

[RELATED]: Kayvon Thibodeaux named a darkhorse Heisman contender for 2021

The third-year edge rusher sees that goal as possible partially due to a position change to outside linebacker for most plays in 2021.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast!]

"I've transitioned more to an outside linebacker, I'm not so much a D-end," explained Thibodeaux. 

"For the whole room, no one's putting their hand in the dirt. Half of us weren't but now we're all pretty much standing up."

For Thibodeaux, learning to begin plays from a standing position has been an adjustment.

"It's a lot different," he said. "Open field tackling has never been one of my strong suits but now I got to hone more into it."

At Joker, Thibodeaux shares the position with Adrian Jackson, Jaden Navarrette on one side with Mase Funa, Jake Shipley, and Treven Ma'ae on the other. 

Now that KT will be playing more in coverage, he promised an interception in 2021.

"That time is coming."

Pass coverage will be one of the new skills added to his repertoire, making him a more complete football player. 

"Playing D-end, it didn't put me in a box but it did, because it kind of dumbed-down my technique, dumbed down my footwork, and dumbed-down everything that I was doing." 

With KT moving to outside linebacker, he was asked who will step up on the defensive line, a unit that already underperformed last season with Thibodeaux among them. 

From the sound of it, Ducks fans have nothing to worry about.

"The whole D-line," he responded. "Everybody is firing on all cylinders."

He expects multiple defensive linemen to be named All-Pac-12 selections, naming Brandon Dorlus and Kristain Williams off the top of his head as to who will step up. 

Dorlus appeared to break out to end the 2020 season with a Pac-12 Championship performance where he had a tackle-for-loss and a sack along with a tackle-for-loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Look for him to have a monster season in 2021 with an expanded role. 

Additionally, Verone McKinley III discussed how the abnormalities of the pandemic played a role in the defense taking a step back last season, but now he sees the team coming together as a cohesive unit.

Thibodeaux went as far to say this will be "the best defense that Oregon has ever seen." 

A decade ago, Tim DeRuyter coached Von Miller from a three-star recruit to the second overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. Now, Thibodeaux will play that same position, titled the Joker, for DeRuyter this upcoming season.

[RELATED]: Tim DeRuyter compares Kayvon Thibodeaux's explosiveness to Von Miller

"[Thibodeaux] is probably the first person that I've seen in a while who has that explosiveness off the edge like Von [Miller]," DeRuyter said in his introductory press conference as the latest Ducks hire in February. 

"Even before I met Coach DeRuyter I was watching Von Miller," said Thibodeaux, who went back and watched Texas A&M film after the DeRuyter's hiring.

Mario Cristobal later clarified he will only be an outside linebacker for certain packages, but previous comments from DeRuyter and Thibodeaux make it seem he will be playing OLB as his primary position this season. 

"There are still instances where I play D-end, in the B-gap or the 4i but for the most part I've been learning the coverage side [of playing linebacker]," explained Thibodeaux. 

Wherever he lines up, Cristobal knows KT will show why he's one of the nation's best players.

"What we're talking about is a certain package," said Cristobal. "There's a lot he's going to be doing and springtime for us is a time to experiment.

"You will see KT doing what he does, what you've seen him do, and do it often." 

Will it be often enough to win the Heisman? That remains to be seen.