The Return of Gang Green
Gang Green, as they are collectively known, was the most heralded defensive unit in Oregon Ducks football history. In 1994, their hard-nosed efforts and strike force mentality led the Ducks all the way to a Rose Bowl appearance where they would ultimately fall to Penn State.
While there have been fairly good defenses since then (such as the 2010 National Championship squad) for the Ducks, most have not even come close to receiving the accolades the 1994 squad did.
That may soon change, however, when the 2012-2013 college football season rolls around.
With a reloaded roster coupled with impressive young talent, the 2012 Oregon Ducks defensive unit will be looking to make their own imprint within the Oregon football history books.
Here are five players that will be looking to help them do that by being the standout players on the Oregon defense.
John Boyett – Safety
Since his first year in 2009, Oregon Duck safety John Boyett has been one of the best players on the Oregon football team. Though he stands at just 5’10”, Boyett packs one of the hardest punches in all of college football.
Boyett is a ball hawk and and will end up wherever the ball is.
Though he is heralded as being a heavy hitter and ball-finding missile, don’t underestimate his ability to cover receivers and aid in run support. Boyett shows flashes of true speed and great football intelligence that allows him to exceed at every aspect required by his position.
In the 2012 Rose Bowl Game against Wisconsin alone, Boyett was involved in 17 tackles — fourteen of them being solo.
This hard-hitter from Oregon will surely wreck havoc on opposing offenses this next year.
He has been nominated to the Jim Thorpe watch list, the Bednarik Award watch list, as well as the Bronko Nagurski watch list.
Dion Jordan – Defensive Line
Dion Jordan has come a long way from the four-star tight end that he used to be.
After performing minimal duties on the offensive side of the ball during his redshirt freshman season in 2009, Jordan burst onto the defensive scene for the Ducks in 2010 at the defensive end position.
Since then, Jordan has been an absolute monster on the defense. Using his huge stature and physicality to intimidate opponents into submission, Jordan has once again brought the Oregon defensive line back to national prominence.
In 2011, Jordan had a total of 42 tackles to go along with his 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
A monster of a player, look for Jordan to continue to shine on the defensive side of the ball as the 2012 Oregon defensive unit has shades of Gang Green.
Jordan is currently on both the Bednarike Award watch list and the Bronko Nagurski watch list.
Kiko Alonso – Linebacker
While Kiko Alonso has had his fair share of trouble, much of that looks like it will remain in the past.
Off-field issues seemed to at one point be synonymous with Kiko’s name. Involvement with the wrong crews, abuse of alcohol, and reckless behavior led many to believe that Alonso was a “dirty” player.
After being arrested twice in the span of 14 months — both related to alcohol abuse — Alonso has channeled a different attitude to not only become a standout player on the Oregon football team but to also become an exemplary model of a reformed individual in the Eugene community.
While much of Alonso’s personal success can be attributed to the way Oregon head coach Chip Kelly has dealt with him as a person, Alonso has taken the burden upon himself to become a better player and person, something that was recently exemplified in the 2012 Rose Bowl game.
Alonso not only made what was probably the key momentum-changer in the game, he was also credited with the Defensive MVP of the 2012 Rose Bowl game against the Wisconsin Badgers, something Chip Kelly believed highlighted the new person Alonso has become.
Heading into the 2012 season, Alonso is the starting middle linebacker in an Oregon line-backing corps that should be quite impressive.
Expect to see stellar numbers from Kiko this next season as well as a drive to become an even better player and person.
Michael Clay – Linebacker
Oregon LB Michael Clay is one of those football players who has done his time waiting for the limelight and is now ready to take center-stage as one of the best defensive players in the nation.
A hard-nosed player who has spent the past few years becoming one of the best defensive players in the Pac 12, Michael Clay had somewhat of a coming out season in 2011, becoming the second leading tackler on the team despite missing three games due to injuries.
As a big fan of Clay, I like to describe him best as a ball-hawk. No matter where he starts on the field prior to a play, you can almost guarantee that he will be one of the men in the dog-pile around the ball at the end of it.
Clay will be the heart and the soul of the 2012 Oregon defensive unit.
Ricky Heimuli – Defensive Line
One of the more underrated players on the Oregon defense is Ricky Heimuli. Once a highly touted prospect in 2010, Heimuli has had his fair share of struggles with the injury bug.
Despite being hampered by injuries in 2011, Heimuli still managed 22 tackles with one of them being for a loss. As he continues to grown into the Oregon defensive system, Heimuli will become an even bigger presence on the field for the Ducks in 2012.
Next to incoming freshman Arik Armstead, Heimuli is the biggest guy up front for the Ducks and should create lots of havoc for opposing offenses this year.
Aided by talented players on both sides of him, Heimuli should flourish in the Oregon defensive system this coming season and become one of the better run stoppers in all of college football.
Though each and every one of these players deserve the highest of accolades and recognition, a defensive unit cannot succeed unless all the players function as one machine.
With Oregon fans still reminiscing about their Gang Green defense of 1994, expect the 2012 defensive unit t0o have shades of Gang Green themselves as the Ducks continue their success in the Pac 12.