Evolution of Oregon's blitz schemes could be something to watch for in 2014

Evolution of Oregon's blitz schemes could be something to watch for in 2014
April 25, 2014, 11:45 am
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Ekpre-Olomu: Spring game captain

Oregon Ducks defensive end Tony Washington (91) defends against Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Connor Wood (5) in the first quarter at Folsom Field.

(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

EUGENE – When Don Pellum took over as defensive coordinator one of his stated goals was to create a more versatile blitzing scheme to maximize the talents of his best pass rushers.

After four weeks of spring football, it appears that Oregon remains in the beginning stages of that evolution.

“Right now what we’ve been doing is running our base system,” Pellum said. “We’ve added some new blitzes just to see people. We’ll evaluate after spring what exactly we want to do. But so far all of those outside linebackers have done a tremendous job.”

Pellum said that young players like sophomores Oshay Dunmore and Torrodney Prevot have looked good rushing the passer.

Pellum also mentioned senior drop end/linebacker Tony Washington, who led the team with 7 ½ sacks last season.

Washington said he’s excited by the prospects of the team using more blitz packages.

“I’m always loving it when they call my number,” Washington said. “I want to go. Any time they add more blitzes, I’m always happy for that.”

Being more creative with generating a pass rush could benefit Oregon greatly.

Considering that Oregon typically builds large leads forcing opposing teams to pass more, one would think that the Ducks would do a better job of pressuring the quarterback. But the Ducks ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in sacks in each of the past two seasons with 28 both years. By comparison, Stanford led the conference with 44 in 2012 and 57 last season.

Washington hopes to help the team raise its production in 2014.

“Last year my goal was 10,” Washington said. “I came up short. So I’m trying to get double digits at least this year.”

For that to happen, Washington will need help from the interior defensive line of sophomores, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Alex Balducci. Typically it’s the job of the big boys inside to occupy offensive linemen so blitzers can come free.

Of the three, Buckner played the most last season and had 39 tackles with 2 ½ sacks. Armstead, slowed by injuries, had 15 tackles and one sack. Balducci had 18 tackles.

“They look really good,” Washington said. “They are really dominating out there. It’s crazy for me, I saw those guys come in as freshman, now they are older guys. They’re really taking over, being more vocal and helping out the guys behind them. I think they are on the right track.”