- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
With the loss of Taylor Hart, Wake Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli after the 2013 season, reloading the defensive line is one of the Ducks' primary objectives in the next 10 months. The Ducks landed a standout group of defensive linemen in the Class of 2012 and all of them should be heavily involved in 2013. With three or four spots in the 2014 recruiting class likely to be filled by defensive line prospects, the Ducks are eyeing a large group of targets.
Here are a few names to keep an eye on throughout the 2014 recruiting cycle:
DE Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C ./Page): The 6-foot-7, 215-pound ESPN Watch List member has high interest in the Ducks and fits the profile of what Oregon has looked for in defensive lineman in the past few years. Of course, Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro are gone, but Featherstone maintains the athleticism and range that would make him an ideal fit for the Ducks' drop-end position. Featherstone hopes to get a visit from the Oregon staff during the spring evaluation period. An impressive spring could lead to Featherstone receiving an offer from one of his favorite programs. Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Tennessee have all offered and are the main programs in pursuit.
DT Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc): The 6-foot, 293-pound ESPN Watch List member doesn't have the ideal height, but watch 30 seconds of his film and it's very clear why Taua is among the top players in the West. His size might be a deterrent to some programs --including Oregon -- but the impact he makes on the field has little to do with his height. Taua is a violent pass-rusher from the defensive tackle position. UCLA is an early favorite but his recruitment will only grow more heated as more programs begin to look past his height and see that he is an elite level player. Adding a physical and lightning quick pass-rusher from on the inside of the defensive line is always a tough thing to accomplish. Taua is a rare breed and the Ducks would be wise to join the race.
DE Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin): The 6-foot-5, 235-pound ESPN Watch List member is among the top players in the Lone Star State. He holds offers from Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M and others. Despite all of the heavy interest from the nation's best programs, Garrett remains interested in the Ducks. Oregon would be wise to jump on board.
DT Enoch Smith (Chicago, Ill. /Mount Carmel): The 6-foot-2, 270-pound ESPN Watch List member is among the Ducks' top targets on the interior of the defensive line. The Ducks will lose three of their defensive line starters after the 2013 season, including their two starting defensive tackles. Smith is the type of player that can come in and make an impact early. Smith holds offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State and a host of other programs, but he has expressed interest in earning an offer from the Ducks.
DT Elisha Shaw (Tucker. Ga./Tucker): The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Watch List member would be someone the Ducks traditionally wouldn't stand a chance to sign because he lives in the heart of SEC country. The massive defensive tackle has offers from half of the SEC, Florida State, Ohio State and many more. What the Ducks do have going for them is that Shaw comes from the same program as 2013 Oregon signee Juwaan Williams. The dominant defensive tackle has his eye on the Ducks from afar, but the Ducks will need to make a move shortly if they hope to have a shot at one of the top run-stoppers in the South.
With the loss of Taylor Hart, Wake Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli after the 2013 season, reloading the defensive line is one of the Ducks' primary objectives in the next 10 months.