Oregon defensive line plays with lots of Hart
Coaches not surprised that sophomore from Tualatin starts strong
EUGENE -Before the 2011 season, few people would have predicted that Taylor Hart would become the Oregon Ducks' most consistent defensive lineman.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly says he hasn't been surprised at all, though, that Hart has emerged the way he has going into tonight's game against California at Autzen Stadium.
Says Kelly: 'When I see Taylor's work ethic and how hard he worked, last spring and through the summer, what he was like in preseason camp … he doesn't miss practice, he plays all the time, he's probably our hardest worker on our team.'
Hart, a 6-6, 280-pound sophomore defensive tackle out of Tualatin High, has been preparing for this moment since last season. Playing intermittently in 2010, Hart appeared in all 13 games for Oregon, recording 18 tackles and two sacks.
'I learned a lot last year,' Hart says. 'Now I'm really focusing on different techniques and listening to coaches and really practicing out there.'
Hart already has 13 tackles this season for the Ducks, who are 3-1 and riding a three-game win streak since their opening loss to LSU. His play has been good enough that defensive end Brandon Hanna is comparing him to last year's standout defensive tackle, Brandon Bair.
'He looks a lot like Bair, and he plays a lot like Bair,' Hanna says. 'He's a big, tall guy. Even his stance - compare his stance to Bair's, it's really similar. It helped him having Bair around, to see how he played and take what worked for him.'
Hart's build makes him a prototypical Oregon defensive lineman.
'We like tall defensive linemen here,' defensive tackle Isaac Remington says. 'Our length is a benefit in our defense.'
Being tall does make it important for Hart to focus on staying low when he comes off the snap, though. It helps that he has been dealing with that for a long time.
'Everybody works on pad level,' Hart says. 'I've been doing that since third grade, so it's nothing really new. I was the tall kid growing up.'
Although he may be slightly undersized as a defensive tackle, Hart likes to stay as mobile as possible so that he can cover more ground and in case the Ducks ever need him to move to defensive end during a game.
'For a defensive end, there's a lot more field you have to cover,' Hart says. 'Instead of bulking up and getting huge, I'm maybe staying fast so I can play all of those positions.'
Growing up in Oregon, Hart always liked the Ducks. He takes special pride in being a part of the team during perhaps the greatest stretch in Oregon football history, the 2010 UO squad that played Auburn for the national championship.
'I was a Duck fan,' Hart says. 'When they recruited me, this was the perfect fit. I get a lot of fans watching. It's pretty cool. Oregon was a good choice.'