Oregon's huge movers should be able to shake whatever comes at them
EUGENE Oregon's defensive linemen want to be big and muscular OK, they are big and muscular and an immovable force with an angry disposition. They've given themselves an alter ego, in honor of an alter ego.
'We're the Hulk,' Junior Siavii says, referring to the fictional character that goes big, ballistic and green when somebody crosses him.
Not a bad role model for the Ducks, who could use bad-dude demeanor on defense after last year, when they seemingly gave up nearly 500 yards every game.
Perhaps they'll also paint their faces green on Saturdays? No, says Quinn Dorsey, it's just an attitude adjustment.
'We're going to be like a pit bull,' Siavii says. 'Everybody's going to be greedy with the meat. Everybody wants a piece of it.'
The hulking part of 'the Hulk' will be up front, where Oregon could have the heaviest defensive line in the country.
While Dorsey serves a four-game suspension for taking part in a tickets-for-rent scandal, 6-6, 305-pound Igor Olshansky will move from tackle to defensive end.
That makes way for the 6-4, 332 Siavii to slip into one starting tackle spot, alongside 6-5, 345 Haloti Ngata.
Those three players' combined weight: 982 pounds, or the equivalent of four 245-pound players.
They make 6-5, 290 Chris Solomona and 6-4, 262 Devan Long, both vying to start at the other defensive end position, look like pipsqueaks.
Dorsey, the quicker and more nimble lineman at 6-4, 270, and Robby Valenzuela, the lightest tackle at 6-2, 298, will fill out the rotation.
Siavii, Ngata play key roles
Needless to say, if the Ducks' defensive line gets pushed around, something is terribly wrong. Oregon's coaches are counting on the sheer girth of the defensive line to win the line of scrimmage, stop their foes' running game and provide holes for tacklers and blitzers.
'They're 300-pounders who can move well, too,' coach Mike Bellotti says. 'It's hard enough to single-block them. It's going to require a double team a great deal of the time, and that should free up our linebackers.
'It also should mean that more of the defense of the front seven can be singled up in pass rush. As soon as you get a singled-up situation, you should defeat most basic pass protections.'
The emergence of Siavii has been the key. Last year, the junior college transfer struggled to pick up the plays and pace at the Pacific-10 Conference level, and he got only short bursts of playing time.
'I know my plays, and I'm kind of growing up,' he says. 'All the little things I lacked I'm working on. I've overcome having to do all the 6:30 a.m. running (for discipline). I'm putting in the hours with the tutors.'
Siavii also has cut down on partying. 'He's way more focused,' Ngata says. 'He knows he's going to play a lot this year.'
Ngata seems destined for greatness. He can be unblockable at times in the middle and has the knack for blocking kicks. Olshansky accepts the move outside, where he probably will see plenty of double teams from opponents trying to stop his bull rush. Amazingly, Olshansky, the strongest man on the team, has gotten stronger, recently topping 500 pounds in the bench and 600 in the squat.
Injuries keep some Ducks down
There won't be many holes to run through, but how much pass rush will the Ducks be able to manage? The answer may lie with Solomona and Long and Dorsey when he returns from his suspension.
Solomona, a JC player who chose Oregon over Washington, gets his chance after sitting out last year.
'I'm pretty sure they'll let us go out there and establish a better pass rush, better than what we've had the past couple years,' Solomona says. Dorsey 'could be a key player, to establish a quick outside rush,' he says, 'and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to work at that.'
Long, coming off injuries suffered in an assault that kept him out of spring ball, has been getting ample looks with the first unit. 'Devan makes a lot of plays, but he has to eliminate mistakes,' Bellotti says.
Notes: The Ducks' two-tight end formations suffered a blow Wednesday. Second-string tight end Josh Rogers tore his left biceps in practice and is out for the season. Many other Ducks are nursing injuries. Among them: tight end Tim Day (ankle), linebacker Jerry Matson (hamstring), cornerbacks Aaron Gipson (toe) and Marques Binns (ankle), linebacker Ramone Reed (knee) and running back Chris Vincent (strained abdominal muscle). Receiver Keith Allen's blown knee has been the most devastating injury. É Receiver Kellen Taylor got academic clearance to play, but he faces an uphill battle to catch Demetrius Williams for the starting job opposite Samie Parker. The Ducks also want to see freshman Jordan Carey (hamstring) get healthy.
The Ducks were still waiting for academic clearance on JC transfer Marc Walker, who was expected to compete for playing time at cornerback. É Bellotti says of the tailback competition: 'Terrence Whitehead continues to impress me. He's picked up a step or two, he's a little lighter, showing some good instincts, and cuts and vision. Chris Vincent has shown a couple things, but (the muscle strain) will set him back. Ryan Shaw has shown some things. But Terrence has impressed me.'
Bellotti wasn't ready to name Paul Martinez his punter yet; the freshman has been competing with two walk-on players. 'It's a concern,' Bellotti says.