Defensive reinforcement is on the way for Oregon in the form of OL Jackson Powers-Johnson
The Oregon Ducks will be down more than two dozen scholarship players when they take on Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl on Wednesday, according to The Oregonian and several other outlets who observed Monday’s practice.
With five of those absences being on the defensive front line, the 14th-ranked Ducks are going to move freshman lineman Jackson Powers-Johnson to the defensive side of the ball. Powers-Johnson made 10 appearances so far this season, even earning two starts, and impressed defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter to the point he feels comfortable making a move for an extra body along the defensive line.
“All year long, when we’d go offense versus defense, the front all the time to compete and get each other developed better, I always noticed him on the other side, how physical he was,” DeRuyter said Monday when he met with reporters. “He’s a … big man who is really, really physical at the point of attack, runs his feet really well and plays with a tremendous motor. As I watched him on the other side of the ball, I was always kind of in the back of my mind thinking, ‘Man, that guy ought to be on defense.’ For whatever set of circumstances, it has worked out that way.
“He’ll be playing interior defensive line for us, and we’re trying to get him as much defense as we can so that he can play as fast as he’s capable of but not bog him down mentally. That part is a little bit difficult for him right now.
According to 247Sports’ Matt Prehm, Powers-Johnson spent most of his time during observed practice periods this week rotating in with the second-team defense at nose. The Ducks are expected to be without Popo Aumavae, Keyon Ware-Hudson, Keanu Williams, and Jayson Jones all for a litany of reasons. Ware-Hudson and Williams are reportedly nursing injuries, Jones transferred to Auburn after the regular season.
“Everybody knows the transition from d-line to o-line is going to be tough, especially on this level of football,” said defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus. “He’s looking good. He looks ready to play. There’s some things he’s got to work on, but we know he’s not going to be in on a 12-play drive. It’s just next man up and he’s doing a great job so far, and I’m helping him with the little things. He’s going to be all right.”
The Draper, Utah, native played both ways for Corner Canyon High School before arriving at Oregon, starting on the interior of the offensive line and at nose. He was a 4-star prospect out of high school, and his teammates on the Oregon offensive line said Monday he’s just a quintessential football player.
“We’re probably going to have him on a little bit of a smaller menu,” DeRuyter said, “but he’s going to play physical and he’s going to play really, really hard.”
The Ducks (10-3) and 16th-ranked Sooners (10-2) square off Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. PT on ESPN.