Spring position review: Middle linebackers

During the next few weeks, we’re going to go 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 into the defense now, moving through the front seven. Today, we examine the middle linebackers.

Who was lost after the 2013 season: No one

Lost production: None

Who returns in 2014: Redshirt junior Rodney Hardrick, junior Joe Walker, redshirt freshman Danny Mattingly, redshirt senior Isaac Ava

Statistics of returning players: 109 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, 1 interception

Outlook: Very, very good. This spot is pretty similar to the weakside linebackers in that the starter is extremely experienced and the second stringer has enough experience that he gives fans the idea that he could be “the guy” when the starter leaves. In this case, Hardrick -- the sixth-leading tackler in 2013 -- is going to be just fine in the middle of the linebackers. In fact, there might not be a better inside combo than Hardrick and weakside linebacker Derrick Malone in the entire Pac-12.

Walker, meanwhile, accounted for 37 tackles last season, including three tackles for loss and two sacks. So, like weakside linebacker Rahim Cassell, it’s very possible we’ll be seeing a lot of Walker in the nonconference schedule as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Don Pellum gets his two-deep ready for the Pac-12 competition.

With Pellum coordinating the entire defense this season, it’ll be interesting to see what exactly he draws up for the group as a whole and how much the linebackers are involved in different blitz schemes and attacks. It might have naturally happened since the linebackers are the most experienced position on the defensive side of the ball for the Ducks, but the fact that their position group coach is now also directing the defense might make that even more possible.

Other spring position reviews: