March 6, 2009

Unit #4: Defensive back

Duck Sports Authority continues its pre-Spring coverage with a look at the 2008 units and how they stacked up against each other. Coming in at #4 in the 2008 ranking was Oregon's most highly regarded group going into the season: Defensive Backs.

Summary B Expectations were high for this group with three multi-year starters returning. They were brought back to earth with a couple shaky pass defense performances in the first half of the season, but the unit also helped the teams' cause repeatedly by making big plays. The unit intercepted 16 passes returning three for touchdowns, and forced six fumbles.

Unit MVP: T.J. Ward The most impressive aspect of this award is that Ward was the only member of the unit who hadn't started before. He certainly made the most of the opportunity. After 21 tackles in 2007 in a reserve and special teams role, Ward totaled 101 in 2008. Of those, many were of the bone-jarring variety.

Best Game: Purdue This 32-26 overtime road win would have been hard to pull out without the playmaking of this unit. Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward each had a drive-stopping interception, and the group had 28 of the 60 team tackles. They also held pass-happy Purdue to under ten yards per completion giving up 26 of 50 for 207 yards.

Consistency: 2nd of 8 As would be expected of a veteran group, this unit was above average versus the other units in consistency. Their two low grades versus BSU and USC were the only marks outside the range.

Improvement Trend: 5th of 8 Six of the eight units had positive improvement trends, so this is actually a good result in this category. The veteran defensive backs had their two roughest games in the first half of the season which pretty much drove this portion of the grade.

Contributors: Leaving

Patrick Chung - SR 92 tackles, 6.5 tfl, 2 sacks, INT (1 TD), FF - It will be difficult to replace this four-year starter and two-time First Team All-League player.

Jairus Byrd - JR 83 tackles, 1.5 tfl, 5 INT (1 TD), FF - Decided to test the NFL waters after starting for three years at CB for the Ducks.

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