Jump to content
Charles Fischer

FishDuck Defensive Line Analysis: Will Oregon Miss Ben Roberts?

Recommended Posts

My FishDuck Friends,....I have spent a number of hours going through every play of the Oregon Spring Game with my TiVo DVR of which allows me to watch a play in slow-motion with no blur. I'll give you my opinions on the Oregon defensive line, but in reference to the question in the title of this post...


No, we will not miss Ben Roberts.


Now my first impression upon hearing of his transfer was one of regret at him leaving, but after my study...I am relieved with what I saw of his actual performance, and that of the other defensive tackles and nose tackles with the Ducks.


Remember, we had not seen anything prior to the Spring to warrant our concern of losing him, and I wish to address what are three plays that got the attention of spectators.  The first was in the opening quarter where after his team stopped the play at the goal line--he came out and did a routine like he personally stopped the play. No, he got caved into the middle from Ajani Cornelius on a great block that left Roberts out of the play.


But the running back did not dive into the end zone from the crease created by Cornelius, but instead decided to jump on the pile.  He ended up falling on Roberts on the bottom, and thus Ben was giving credit for the tackle, and a TFL.  But because he hot-dogged it afterward...I thought he must have made a great play.  Nope.


He did pressure the quarterbacks twice, and was given credit for a sack. Not a sack to me, as the QB would have just quickly thrown ball away, as he did in the other example. Roberts created a good havoc play, created two quick throw-aways in my view, but we also have to look at the bigger picture.  Did he beat a grizzled veteran or starter on the offensive line?


No.  He beat Lipe Moala, and Gernorris Wilson who are both redshirt freshmen, and both at Oregon one year while Roberts has been through two years of practices.


Ben Roberts, Oregon, Defensive Line

                                    Ben Roberts

The key when watching Roberts, is determining whether he is plugging the middle and requiring a double team as a nose tackle should?  It is critical for our defense since we only have two inside linebackers, not three in our 4-2-5 MINT defense.  Thus the linebackers need to be freed up from blockers to make the tackles.


He was usually neutralized by one offensive lineman blocking him, but three times when double-teamed....he was driven three and four yards down the field!  That cannot happen as we don't expect the nose tackle to make plays when double-teamed, but he needs to stand his ground at the line-of-scrimmage and deny running lanes.  When you are blown down the field like that...you create huge running lanes for opposing running backs in both directions.


By contrast, we had some superb plugging done in the middle by a number of other defensive linemen.  Remember, they are not meant to make the tackle, but simply plug the middle two gaps with his body and that of the opposing double team to make running in the middle impossible.  I noted a ton of good plays in the middle from No. 95 Keyon Ware-Hudson, No. 90 Jamaree Caldwell, No. 99 Terrance Green, No. 58 A'Mauri Washington and brand new freshman (a high schooler who came early) in No. 50 Tionne Gray.


In my view, Roberts would have been on the third team of defensive tackles and nose tackles, and he knew it.  This is not to mention the tremendous defensive lineman class of '24 that was brought in, and could pass him soon.


We had four high school players who graduated and enrolled early to play in the Spring Game, and in my view No. 42 Aydin Breland, No. 77 Jericho Johnson and No. 88 Xadavien Sims were well blocked and relatively invisible in this game.  But the fourth one, No. 50 Tionne Gray is one to watch, as he came up a couple of times in my notes.


In particular, he beat his man (reserve center) to make the fourth down stop late in the game, but he also forced a quick QB throw in the fourth quarter, and did a fine stuff for nearly no-gain in the first half.  I like him better than Roberts already, and Gray makes this 2024 D-Line class that much more impressive.



                                              Tionne Gray


I did not know much about Gray, but learned that he was a Rivals 4-Star out of St. Louis and a top-10 defensive tackle in the nation!  We beat out hometown Missouri (very notable) Iowa, LSU, Arkansas, Washington, Tennessee and Oklahoma for the 6'6" mountain.  He was listed at 305, but I believe he looked heavier, yet had a very quick jump at the snap, and some real fast-twitch in his moves.


I knew nothing about him, and frankly...forgot about him within this heralded recruiting class, but the little FishDuck Football Fairy on my shoulder was whispering into my ear, "Remember Charles, Greatness and Weakness Emerge Early."  Yep, this young man may have been the sleeper of the class.


So, I wish Ben Roberts well, as Oregon will be just fine with all the talent being assembled in Eugene by Dan Lanning.  For those of you who are new here, I've done over 100 analysis articles for FishDuck.com over the last dozen years, and broke down Spring games for right at 20 years.  I created the 50 analysis videos of the Chip Kelly offense and Nick Aliotti defense a decade ago, (Viewed over two-million times) so while these are just my opinions (and I can be wrong) there is some experience in my analysis.


I have other impressions of the Spring Game that I'll share later, but this was the pressing question I was curious about and after spending some time--wanted to share my thoughts with you. I am satisfied with the talent and depth of the defensive line without Roberts, and was delighted to find a gem to observe over the upcoming years.  Good-gosh Our Beloved Ducks are going to be tough in the trenches!


24 Spring Game_Steven Chan.jpg

Note how Gray, No. 50 is requiring a double-team, and holding his ground.


  • Thanks 3
  • Mic drop 1
  • Great post! 7
  • Applause 2
  • Thumbs Up 5
  • Like 1

Mr. FishDuck

Link to post
Share on other sites

The amount of talent brought in makes it easy to forget some of the big additions. 


Great to hear that Gray is going to be a monster for us. 


As for the rest of the freshman... It's always surprising to see who pops in the spring. But many more freshies will surge come fall camp when they get a lot more development time under them. 

  • Thumbs Up 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Superb analysis Charles. I always root for the young Ducks to grow into future team leaders but that doesn’t always work out. 

Dan continues to bring in the most talent he can, teach it up then let them sort it out on the field. Roberts may have become a great Duck in time but sounds like he was being passed up by some youngsters. 


  • Thanks 1
  • Thumbs Up 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, Charles for this very good analysis! Made my day.

  • Thanks 1
  • Thumbs Up 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Just wow Charles, I mean an analysis and presentation of information one can find no where else!



  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The turnover rate of players when you take into account graduation, players with NFL aspirations, the transfer portal, and recruiting is tough to keep up with for casual fans of college football. 

The portal is a game changer. However, it definitely pushes players out of a program. I have mixed emotions about those that choose, or are asked to leave. I always wonder about the conversations that lead to those decisions. 

Ben Roberts potential is gone, and is replaced with an experienced player. The Ducks have improved as a team, and the reality of high level college football is left in its wake. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

On 5/5/2024 at 9:25 AM, Drake said:

the reality of high level college football is left in its wake. 

I would disagree.  Not only has the team been improved, but this defense will be that much more interesting and entertaining to watch this fall.  High level college football has been improved as more of the higher end talent assemble at the better programs.


As noted in my analysis...somebody was probably going to go with all the current defensive line talent, and considering the four new DT/NT recruits brought in.  It is the nature of college football now, that whoever is not poised to play anytime soon will probably transfer.


Look at the bright side....we'll probably see him again when we play Washington.  While he will improve, I like the upside of what we are left with better.

  • Applause 1
  • Thumbs Up 1

Mr. FishDuck

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a 100% spot on. Albeit, I'd argue he would have been 4th or possible 5th string by fall camp with the arrival of Hampton and improvement by the RS Frosh. Also, now that we have true roster management, body types and talent for this defense, we'll see more 2 gapping from the 0/1T. 

I have our depth chart in Mint not accounting for certain pass package:


SAM: Tuioti, Purchase, Winston, Moore

DE (3/4i Tech strongside): Caldwell, KWH, Green/Gardner

DT (0/1Tech): Hampton, Washington, KWH, Gray/Gardner/Green

DE/Jack (3/4/5Tech weakside): Burch, Matayo, Purchase


4-3 scheme for strong rushing teams like tOSU, Michigan, Illinois maybe Rutgers:


SAM: Tuioti, Purchase, Winston, Moore

DE (3/4i Tech strongside): Caldwell, KWH, Green/Gardner

NT (0/1Tech): Hampton, Washington, Gray

DE/Jack (3/4Tech weakside): Burch, KWH, Green/Gardner

WILL: Matayo, Purchase, Winston, Moore


With the additional games played, expected number of blowouts these guys will all see a lot of time.


  • Great post! 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...