With the talent on hand and a collection of defensive coaches with national championship backgrounds, the expectations are high for Oregon’s defense in 2022.

Two players driving those expectations: defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus and outside linebacker DJ Johnson. Dorlus is looking to step up in an effort to help replace Kayvon Thibodeaux. Johnson is making the switch from tight end to full-time ‘backer, a position he looks well suited for.

The executive director of the Senior Bowl thinks so, too. Jim Nagy tweeted on Saturday that Dorlus and Johnson are two players they can’t wait to see on the field this fall. Nagy even went so far as to say Johnson has the potential to rise into an early-round draft pick.

Dorlus had 25 tackles to go with seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last season. He was voted by league media to the preseason First Team All-Pac-12 defense.

“I’ll tell you one guy that I don’t think is getting enough praise is Brandon Dorlus,” head coach Dan Lanning said recently. “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.”

As for Johnson, he looked like a potential force during the Ducks’ spring showcase earlier this offseason. Of course, that was a glorified scrimmage with tag-offs being recorded as sacks, but Johnson flashed some real potential that day.

“I think DJ can be one of the best players in the conference,” Lanning said after the game. “I see him develop every single day, day in and day out. One of the best players in the nation if he continues to push himself to the level he’s capable of. I’m excited to see what he did today, but he has that growth mindset. He’s gotta go say, ‘OK, what can I do better? How can I improve from where I’m at and not be satisfied?’ Which I think DJ will do.”

Both will look to help the Ducks shock the country on Sept. 3 when Oregon opens the season against Georgia.