Oregon's Brandon Dorlus is ready to be the defensive line's top guy
One thing that’s become pretty evident with first-year Oregon head coach Dan Lanning early on is when he singles someone out, you best listen to what he has to say.
Lanning doesn’t like to give away the farm. He doesn’t like to give bulletin board material to his opponents. His players have praised the realness. So to hear him specifically shout out fourth-year defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus on Wednesday at Oregon’s local media day caused the ears to perk up a bit.
“I’ll tell you one guy that I don’t think is getting enough praise is Brandon Dorlus,” the head coach said. “I can’t say enough for guys we didn’t necessarily recruit but they’ve bought in. You watch a guy like Brandon Dorlus and what he’s done this summer, to not stay the same, to improve in a situation where he was a little bit banged up. I’m really excited to see what this fall looks like for him and this season.”
The Fort Lauderdale native is down to 285 pounds. It’s the lightest he’s been in some time. The shoulder—which required offseason surgery and forced him to the sideline for Oregon’s spring period—is feeling good. He’s ready to roll when fall camp opens on Friday.
“I feel more explosive, to be honest,” he said. “I feel like I can go for longer. My endurance is better. My strength is great. I feel faster. I just can’t wait to get started.”
He spent the offseason immersed in film of No. 1 overall 2022 draft pick Travon Walker and the rest of the Georgia defensive line. “I want to play everywhere,” Dorlus told reporters on Wednesday. But Walker provides a roadmap of sorts to the new defense Dorlus and his teammates will bring to the field this season.
Walker’s role figures to most closely resemble Dorlus’ in Lanning’s scheme. Dorlus said he’s expecting to play a good deal of 4i and 5 technique in the defense. “On the edge, just setting the edge and doing my job out there. But I’ll be going inside, too,” he said.
Dorlus plans to use this season to make a Walker-like jump up draft boards. The feedback he got from NFL personnel was that they wanted to see him put together a complete season. He has the tools. He can be a playmaker. This offseason has been about working on his consistency.
The big man had 42 quarterback pressures last season, per PFF. That was the second-most on the team, behind recently-drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux. Just three sacks, though. As Oregon looks to replace what Thibodeaux brought to the table, Dorlus knows the attention on him is about to shoot up.
“Of course KT leaving is going to put a lot of pressure on me now because I’m who everybody’s looking for,” Dorlus said. “It’s not going to be a big load, we have a lot of guys that can make plays—Popo, Keyon, Casey, Jordon Riley. The coaches did a great job recruiting over this break.
“We’re going to see who’s ready to perform. I think I’m going to be one of the top guys. I’m ready to be the top guy. I’m ready to make plays.”
Dorlus is returning alongside Popo Aumavae and Keyon Ware-Hudson. That trio made up Oregon’s starting defensive line last season. But all three of them sat out the spring as they made their way back from shoulder injuries.
“You actually take the game for granted sometimes when you’re on the field, so being hurt really helped me,” Dorlus said. “It just made my mindset more locked in. Me, Keyon and Popo, we made a deal with each other that after we come out of these slings, we’re gonna take this to another level. We’re gonna see on Friday.”
Thibodeaux was double-teamed and chipped. Opposing offenses did what they could to try and neutralize the Ducks’ premier pass-rusher. That attention will likely shift some to Dorlus this season, but this is where the new head coach comes in.
In Lanning’s system, Oregon is going to bring everyone. Simulated pressure is a part of the attack. Lanning swaps out traditional four-man pressure/seven-man coverage looks with unconventional personnel. Georgia liked to play with pre-snap movement along the line of scrimmage and then drop defensive ends into coverage zones and bring inside ‘backers on the blitz. Four rushers. Unexpected bodies.
Oregon inside linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe give Lanning two studs to work with in an attempt to carry that philosophy over.
“See, I think this is why Coach Lanning’s defense is so amazing,” Dorlus said. “When you go back to the film, you see everybody on the film is involved in this defense. When the linebackers are taking on double-teams, that’s when the d-line has opportunities to make plays. I think that’s why guys are so excited to play in this defense. It’s just fun. It’s not just the linebackers. Everybody’s involved. I think that’s the best part of this defense. It’s not just about one guy, it’s about everybody.”
Everyone has raved about the fun factor of Lanning’s defense.
Dorlus called the scheme “saucy.”
Said Lanning: “I have really high expectations for that group. Where I’ve been, if you want to play great defense you’ve got to be good on the defensive line. I think we have the guys to do that if we can stay healthy.”
And Dorlus, a preseason all-conference player, is a big part of that calculus.