The Ducks defense just got more formidable.
All four juniors that tested the 2020 NFL draft waters decided to push declaring for the NFL Draft a year in favor of returning for their senior season as an Oregon Duck.
[RELATED: Thomas Graham Jr. returns for his senior season | Deommodore Lenoir to return for his senior season |Jordon Scott to return for his senior season | Austin Faoliu to return for his senior season]
Among the players were interior defensive linemen Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu, both of whom started last season.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Jordon Scott committed to Oregon from Florida following the hiring of Willie Taggart as head coach, replacing Mark Helfrich, becoming the second player from Florida in that 2017 recruiting class. Immediately after stepping on campus, Scott turned heads including his head coach to go on the record saying he'd be shocked if Scott wasn't on the All-Pac-12 Freshman team. Once the season began, Scott surpassed those predictions by being named a True Freshman All-American by 247Sports. As a sophomore, the Associated Press named him to the All-Pac-12 second team. In 40 games played, "Fat Mac" has 95 total tackles (48 solo) and 11.0 tackles-for-loss, and that's with demanding double teams on nearly every play.
Austin Faoliu was a 247Sports three-star recruit from Matar Dei high school in California that committed a few weeks ahead of National Signing Day in 2017. As a freshman, he played in twelve games while even starting two of them, finishing with 22 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and one sack. As a sophomore, Pro Football Focus graded him as the third-best defensive lineman in the conference and thirteenth best defensive tackle against the run in the nation. In three years as a Duck, he has 103 tackles (47 solo), 9.5 tackles-for-loss, and 5.0 sacks.
He said the following about coming back.
Coach Cristobal and the University of Oregon was the biggest blessing I could ever ask for...One more year won't hurt. I feel there's going to be a lot of learning for me to do and a lot of chances and opportunities for me to mature and [work] on my game.
WHAT IT MEANS
With both starters returning, the Ducks defensive line will become even more formidable than last season. Scott and Faoliu should have career seasons as seniors which will make it quite difficult to run the ball against them. When the duo forces short runs on first-down or second-down to force third-and-long situations, it'll let Andy Avalos' defense pin their ears back to get after the quarterback. Kayvon Thibodeaux had 9.0 sacks as a freshman, and historically speaking pass rushers as highly rated as him coming out of high school have monster sophomore leaps. Expect Thibodeaux to demand double teams or make opposing offenses pay. Opposing offenses will need to pick their poison since they can't double Thibodeaux, Scott, and Faoliu all at once.
Fat Mac stated his goal for the upcoming year.
One major area I think I need to grow in is pass rush so I'll be working on it all offseason.
Other returning or incoming defensive interior lineman include redshirt freshman Andrew Faoliu (Austin's younger brother) along with sophomore Popo Aumavae along with freshman Kristian Williams, Sua'ava Poti and Keyon Ware-Hudson.
The Ducks defensive line did damage last season, so now imagine them with a line that all returns including an even better Thibodeaux.
Given the Ducks host Ohio State, who will be ranked inside the top-two teams almost assuredly, Oregon will need all the defensive help they can get to defeat Heisman finalist Justin Fields and the Buckeyes.
With Scott and Faoliu back on the D-Line, what does it mean for Oregon? originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest