Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Oregon Ducks [Print without images]

Thursday, February 28, 2013
2014 defensive linemen to watch

By Brandon P. Oliver

Malik McDowell
Detroit Loyola defensive end Malik McDowell, an ESPN Watch List selection, is one of the nation's best in the 2014 class.
After a banner defensive line haul in 2012 that included two U.S. Army All-Americans, a Semper Fidelis All-American, a junior college All-American and a couple of other athletic rush ends, the Ducks came up mostly empty in the Class of 2013. If not for the signing day flip of rush end Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor), the Ducks would have been in a big hole moving forward despite the talented group they signed in 2012.

Landing Prevot helped by adding to the bright future the Ducks have on the edge of the defensive front. The problem for the Ducks -- as always -- lies in the middle, where they will lose three seniors after the 2013 season.

A look at the Ducks' potential 2014 targets on the defensive line:

DE Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian), 6-foot-4, 255 pounds: Lealao is likely the top defensive lineman on the West Coast and his versatility makes him the prototypical lineman in Oregon's aggressive defensive scheme. The ESPN Watch List member is high on Stanford, but the Ducks are up there and will likely remain that way well into the recruiting process.

DE Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), 6-2, 220: Dorton hasn't heard a lot from the Ducks up to this point. Like some of his St. John Bosco teammates, Dorton likes Oregon and would love an offer from the Ducks.While schools from the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 are all keeping tabs on Dorton, this one will likely come down to a Pac-12 battle, with the Los Angeles schools leading the way.

DL Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola), 6-5, 275: McDowell is among the top strong-side defensive ends in the Class of 2014 and could wind up getting some reps on the inside, should he choose a program that runs a versatile scheme, such as Oregon. McDowell will be tough to pull away from the nation's best programs, but the Ducks have made him a big priority early on. The ESPN Watch List member has always liked the Ducks and could try to set up a visit before his senior season.

DT Enoch Smith (Chicago/Mt. Carmel): 6-3, 265: Smith has double-digit offers and an Oregon offer would stand tall. However,  Notre Dame is the longtime favorite for powerful defensive stopper.

DL Uriah Leiataua (Compton, Calif./Dominguez), 6-4, 265: Leiataua has a great frame and a high ceiling that could have him sitting as one of the biggest risers in this class before all is said and done.

DE Connor Humphreys (Portland, Ore./Central Catholic), 6-4, 230: The top in-state defensive lineman doesn't have an offer from the Ducks at this point, but a strong performance at Oregon's camp in June could result in one. At this point, Humphreys holds offers from Arizona State, Oregon State, Portland State and Wyoming. He has heard from Arkansas, Boise State, Cal, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA and Washington, among others.

DE Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin), 6-5, 245: Garrett is among the top players in Texas and could blossom into an even bigger star as a senior. The Ducks landed Prevot out of Texas in the 2013 class, and adding a player like Garrett to complement the smaller and quicker Prevot could give the Ducks a dynamic defensive duo for years to come.

DE Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page), 6-7, 210: The ESPN Watch List rush end is lean but has the ideal frame to be the next Dion Jordan. Florida State, North Carolina and North Carolina State have the edge for the talented pass-rusher, but the Ducks have remained in his top group for some time despite having not extended an offer yet. Over the next four to five years, Featherston could pack 40-50 pounds on his long frame and become an elite NFL prospect, just as Jordan has done.