Monday, July 23, 2012

Class Rewind: 2009 LB/DB

As fall camp approaches, Duck Sports Authority continues to look back to past recruiting classes looking at the individual players on each side of the ball. So far, we have worked our way from the 2005 class through the 2008 signing class. Along the way, we have seen some all time Duck greats like Jonathan Stewart, LaMichael James, Jeff Maehl, Casey Matthews just to name a few. As we move forward to the class of 2009, we begin to see even more players that are still a part of this seasons Duck roster. Through the series, we have looked at defense first, then offense as a group. However, the classes of 2009 and 2010 were fairly large so we are going to break these classes down even further. For the 2009 defense, we will looked first at the defensive line on Friday. Today we will look at the linebackers and defensive backs signed in 2009. The defensive players signed in 2009 have provided some of the greatest highlights in Duck history. From Cliff Harris' punt return against California in 2010 to Michael Clay's fumble recovery in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, this group is another special group in Duck history. The defensive line saw more misses than hits with only three of the eight players making significant contributions. The defensive backs and linebackers were considerably more solid with major contributions from just about every player signed.
Name Position Stars Games Started
Michael Clay

Impact: Appeared in 13 games for the Ducks as a true freshman. Originally seeing time as a long snapper, Clay became a top reserve linebacker and recorded 32 tackles including 2 tackles for loss and a sack. As a sophomore, improved on those numbers registering 42 tackles. His sophomore season may best be remembered, though, by his 64 yard "jaunt" on a fake punt in the Civil War. As a junior Clay cemented himself as a top linebacker with 102 total tackles in just 11 appearances. Those 8.9 tackles per game were second in the Pac-12 Conference. Also registered 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Is projected to be the top linebacker once again this season.
LB 10/36
Cliff Harris

Impact: In just 8 appearances as a true freshman in 2009, Harris led the team with 8 passes broken up. There were glimpses of greatness in those 8 games, but nothing that would have predicted his sophomore season. In just one season of returning punts, Harris tied the all-time school record for career punt returns for a touchdown with 4 which also broke the single season record. As a defensive back, led the nation with 23 passes defended and 17 pass break-ups to go with his 6 interceptions. Named a Consensus All-America as a punt returner, Harris also earned second team All-America honors as a defensive back. Expected to anchor the backfield for the Ducks in 2011, Harris ran into troubles off the field and never managed his way back into the starting lineup. After just 6 appearances which saw Harris register another 6 passes defended and a 50 yard interception return, Harris was dismissed from the team for repeated violations of team rules. A defensive back that had been projected as a first day pick for the 2011 draft, fell out of the draft and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent.
DB 9/27
Brian Jackson

Impact:Jackson arrived from Alabama thanks to defensive backs coach John Neal. During Jackson's redshirt season, he was twice named scout team defensive player of the week. Playing safety for the Ducks, Jackson has appeared in 25 games over the past two seasons. After recording 16 tackles in 2010, Jackson became a valuable reserve safety in 2011 recording 27 tackles off the bench. He has one career interception and also provided depth returning two kickoffs in 2011 for a 25.0 yard average. Jackson is expected to contend for the starting spot left vacant by the graduation of Eddie Pleasant.
DB 0/27
Bryson Littlejohn

Impact: A junior college All-America, Littlejohn arrived from Sierra Community College in 2009. Played in 11 games in 2009, notching his first career start against Stanford. As a junior, Littlejohn managed just 9 tackles. Appeared in all 13 games as a senior and registered 31 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss and recovered 2 fumbles.
LB 0/26
Boseko Lokombo

Impact: Though Lokombo has yet to start a game for the Ducks, the top reserve linebacker as a freshman and sophomore has made quite an impact in his limited opportunities. As a freshman, Lokombo snatched a fumble against Arizona State and returned it 32 yards for his first career touchdown. Tied for the Pac-10 lead in 2010 with 3 fumble recoveries. Also managed 36 total tackles with 2 tackles for loss and 3 passes broken up in 2010. As a sophomore, Lokombo was again in the right place at the right time returning 2 interceptions for touchdowns as well as recovering a blocked punt and turning that into a touchdown against Washington State. Also recorded 33 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 5 passes defended in his sophomore season. Most are projecting Lokombo to step into the starting lineup as a junior.
LB 0/27
Avery Patterson

Impact: Spent his first season in Eugene recovering from an injury during his redshirt season. 2010 saw Patterson become an important contributor on special teams as he appeared in all 13 games and notched 19 total tackles and an interception. Patterson would shine as a top reserve defensive back in 2011 when he recorded an impressive 55 total tackles for the season along with 5 passes defended and a blocked kick against Washington State which led to a touchdown. Patterson is expected to battle Brian Jackson for a starting spot replacing Eddie Pleasant.
DT 2/27
Jackson Rice

Impact:Rice was an instant impact player for the Ducks as a freshman. Punted in all 13 games for the Ducks and averaged a respectable 40.5 yards per kick. His real promise, though, was that over 37% of his kicks were inside the 20. He also managed 11 50+ yard punts as a freshman. The incredible offensive season in 2010 would see Rice's total punts drop by one third to just 40 total punts, but his average increased to 43.2 yards per kick while he knocked 45% of his kicks down inside the 20 and managed another 8 50+ yard punts. As a junior, Rice was a finalist for the Ray Guy award given annually to the nations best collegiate punter. He averaged 45.9 yards per punt as a junior in 2011 which is the second highest single season average in school history. An incredible 35% of his kicks in 2011 were for 50+ yards as 17 of his punts travelled that distance including a 61 yard punt. Helped the Ducks lead the nation in net punting. Will be expected to contend for the Ray Guy award again as a senior in 2012.
K 40/40


Games Started: 61/210 Impact:There are not a lot of starts in this group, but that will change this year as at least three of the players in this group will likely start a lot of games in 2012, barring any unforeseen injuries. In fact, there is a scenario where both Jackson and Patterson could start together if Coach Neal feels that they are part of the "best four" defensive backs. That would likely mean that Coach Neal believes Patterson to be better prepared to start at a cornerback position ahead of one of the now sophomore defensive backs. Michael Clay is an incumbent start at one linebacker position and Boseko Lokombo is projected to replace Josh Kaddu. With Jackson Rice returning the only real "miss" in this class is the mercurial Cliff Harris. It is tough to call a player who was an All American a miss, but his inability to keep himself on the field for the Ducks and his inability to hold on to a starter position land him the dubious honor. As a group, though, the players signed in the linebacker and defensive back positions in 2009 have performed better than expected in many cases and as expected in the case of one player. Overall, this group of signees would have to be rated as above average. After the disappointing defensive line class of this same year, the defense, overall, in 2009, would still have to be considered a disappointment. Too many misses; dismissals for disciplinary reasons make this class one that could have been so much better.

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