NFL dream motivates Oregon Ducks defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus
With Kayvon Thibodeaux in the NFL, it's natural to wonder how the Oregon Ducks' defensive front will replace such a dynamic force.
The answer is that they'll try to do replace Thibodeaux by committee, but one player who jumps out is Brandon Dorlus.
A breakout defensive lineman for Oregon last season, when he lined up mostly on the interior and was a first-team all-Pac-12 performer, Dorlus is projected to spend more time as a defensive end.
Coming off of offseason shoulder surgery, and with an eye toward following Thibodeaux into the NFL next season, Dorlus is one of the more motivated Ducks defenders.
He might primarily line up as defensive end, but the fourth-year junior's ability to play anywhere along the defensive line figures to add to his impact for a defense designed to move players around and keep offenses off balance.
"You can really see him starting to come into his own here with some confidence," defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi said. "I think as he really gets the system down, he'll be an individual that we'll ask to do numerous job descriptions."
Lupoi said Dorlus embraces playing and learning multiple positions.
"He studies. He loves it, and I think he wants to play at the next level. So that's important to him."
With preparing for pro football in mind, Dorlus said he is taking each practice more seriously than he did last season.
"Last year I wasn't really practicing how I played in the games. I really was slow," Dorlus said. This fall, he said, he's not taking practices for granted. Instead he is "finding something every day to get 1% better at, and I just take the other guys with me."
Treven Ma'ae, a fourth-year sophomore who is in line to back up Dorlus at the "big end" position, said he tries to learn from Dorlus.
"He's dynamic when he rushes and he's also got strong hands, too. So I try to replicate that," Ma'ae said.
Dorlus said he tries to learn from everybody, including teammates and established pros. He studies the technique of Los Angeles Rams superstar interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald and of Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns, like Dorlus a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native.
If Dorlus has sack number or other individual goals in mind for 2022, he hasn't shared them with the public.
"My biggest goal right now is just staying healthy," he said. "Coming back from my surgery, just constantly staying in the weight room and being strong and being consistent."
Listed at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, Dorlus said ahead of the start of fall practices he weighed 285 pounds, slimmed down from last season when he added weight to play on the interior.
"I feel more explosive, to be honest," Dorlus said. "I feel like I can go longer. My endurance is better. My strength is great. I feel faster."
Dorlus played in all 14 games last season, finishing with 25 tackles (14 solo), seven of them for a loss and 2.5 sacks. He was among the highest graded defensive linemen in the Pac-12 by Pro Football Focus.
His versatility and durability was critical for an Oregon defensive line that had its depth significantly impacted by injuries in 2021. Dorlus noted that, with everyone healthy at the start of camp and with a few key additions, the Ducks front won't need him to individually replace Thibodeaux.
In addition to the development of returning players such as Ma'ae, Dorlus said the addition of transfers Jordon Riley and Casey Rogers from Nebraska has improved the depth and competition along the defensive front.
"It takes a load off of the starters," Dorlus said. "You go out to get a breather, they go in, there's no drop off. They're still doing the same thing, knocking (offensive linemen) back and making plays. So, I love that."
Dorlus anticipates he will see the blocking double teams that Thibodeaux often faced last season. Offsetting that challenge, he said, is the fact that the Lupoi/Dan Lanning defense gives every player opportunities to make plays. If linebackers such as Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe are attracting extra blockers, opportunities arise for defensive linemen to make tackles.
"I think that's why these guys are so excited to play in this defense," Dorlus said. "It's fun, because it's not just the linebackers. Everybody's involved."
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