Spring position review: Weakside LB

During the next few weeks, we’re going through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.

We’re well into the defense now, moving through the front seven. Today, we examine the weakside linebackers.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: Brett Bafaro (left the team)

Lost production: None

Who returns in 2014: Redshirt senior Derrick Malone, redshirt junior Rahim Cassell, sophomore Tyrell Robinson, redshirt senior Grant Thompson

Statistics of returning players: 153 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, 2 interceptions

Outlook: Anyone getting a trend here? “Returning talent that’s also experienced.” I feel as though I’ve written that line for a lot of the position groups, and the weakside linebackers are no different in that regard.

But, like a lot of the other position groups, the great experience doesn’t extend much further than the starter. Malone -- the Ducks’ leading tackler in 2013 -- is going to be an anchor in the middle of the defense, but it’s necessary to keep him healthy because there’s less experience with Cassell, Robinson or Thompson. Cassell registered 32 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and two quarterback hurries, and Robinson and Thompson combined for 16 tackles.

Look for defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Don Pellum to try to get Cassell some early snaps in the nonconference season. Malone is game-tested and passed with flying colors, so he doesn’t have to prove himself. But it would be nice for everyone to feel as confident in Cassell as they do in Malone, so if Malone needed to rest or were injured, the Ducks wouldn’t miss a beat in the middle of their defense.

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