Oregon Spring Ball Position Battles: How will rebuilt linebacker crew look in 2023?
The Oregon Ducks went into the 2022 season with what many considered the best linebacker group in the nation, led by veteran Noah Sewell and breakout candidate Justin Flowe.
Unfortunately, Flowe never reached his potential thanks in part to injuries, and while Sewell was solid – the unit as a whole was disappointing.
Now both Sewell and Flowe are out the door, Sewell to join his brother Penei in the NFL and Flowe to the Arizona Wildcats via the NCAA transfer portal.
However, Oregon’s linebacker group in 2023 is still expected to produce for coach Dan Lanning, with a few veteran returners like Jeffrey Bassa, transfer portal additions, and up and coming recruits ready to contribute in Eugene.
Spring is the chance for some of those younger players to earn a role this fall, and it gives those transfer additions a chance to acclimate to a new defensive system before the season gets underway.
Below is a look at the likely candidates to battle for a significant role on Lanning’s defense this spring.
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Bassa enters his junior year after blossoming in a new role last season. Bassa began his career as a safety in 2021 before moving to linebacker last year and recording 31 solo tackles, four tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, and two interceptions.
He’ll compete to start at the WILL linebacker spot in 2023, and his experience and versatility will make him a valuable part of Oregon’s defense next year – regardless of where he lines up.
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Brown stepped into a bigger role in 2022 for Dan Lanning, appearing in 12 games and recording 12 solo tackles as well as one sack. With Flowe and Sewell out the door he will compete with transfer Jestin Jacobs for snaps at the middle linebacker position.
While Jacobs may end up with the starting role, Brown will absolutely contribute for this team in 2023, and a strong spring could give him the edge heading into the fall.
Jacobs blossomed for Iowa as a sophomore in 2021, starting eight games and recording 53 total tackles with one interception, two passes defended, and one forced fumble. A leg injury limited him to just two games in 2022, and he entered the portal and joined Lanning’s squad in December.
Jacobs has plenty of untapped potential, and after bulking up and entering a defensive system more conducive to his skill set – this could be a big breakout year for the transfer.
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Jackson was a four-star prospect out of Omaha in the 2022 recruiting class, and he appeared in five games as a freshman – totaling one solo tackle.
He’ll have a chance to compete for a much larger role this spring, and spending a year learning behind Sewell, Flowe, Bassa, and Brown should have him ready to make an impact regardless of his role in 2023.
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Taggart is another four-star linebacker from the 2022 recruiting class, joining the Ducks out of Draper, Utah last season.
He has yet to appear in a game for Oregon, but should compete alongside Jackson and Brown for a reserve role in Lanning’s defense during the 2023 season. A strong spring could easily put him in the mix for snaps on defense, or at the very least a key role on the special teams.