Nov 26, 2011; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive end Dion Jordan (96) against the Oregon State Beavers during the second half at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Z. Rider-US PRESSWIRE

Breakout Star: Dion Jordan

Before the 2011 season, Dion Jordan was simply known as a converted tight end who needed to learn the ropes of the defensive end position. The long, quick end had just two sacks in 2010 and was an afterthought heading into his junior year. The Oregon Ducks lost six starters on defense, and their were question marks about the team’s ability to make up for the loss of talent players such as Casey Matthews. Jordan’s emergence as a top pass rusher and one of the stars of the Pac-12 conference was one of the main reasons for the Ducks solid defense and eventual Rose Bowl victory.

After just four combined sacks quarterback hurries in 2010, per, Dion Jordan was a question mark, not an answer, for the Ducks. The Ducks went to the National Championship game the previous year, but there were doubts about the Ducks heading into ’11. After all, this team had to replace six starters on a defense that will be defending fast teams like Stanford, and that’s not even mentioning how long these guys are on the field.

However, Jordan delivered to the tune of 13 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and an additional hurry. He was fourth in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss and sacks, and he was the marquee pass rusher for a Ducks team that ranked third in the nation in total sacks.

The statistics are great, but they don’t tell the whole story over the course of 14 games. Scouts rave about Dion Jordan’s 6’7″, 240 pound frame, and his length, speed, and athleticism make him an unstoppable force. He is just so fast and has an incredible motor, and, with continued development, should end up as a second rounder and a decent contributor to an NFL defensive line rotation.

The crazy thing about the Pac-12 First-Team star is that he would have been a third-string TE this year, and nobody would know who he is. It’s incredible how one move can change an entire career, and it’s important to realize that there are more than a few college football players who could benefit from a position change. They could even become the next Dion Jordan and break out at a new position; you never know where the next hidden gem lies.

Which brings up the Oregon Ducks recent five-star recruit Arik Armstead, who is slated to start his college career on the D-Line. He should be solid at that position, but this guy needs to be an offensive tackle with his skill set and ability to power through linebackers, once he’s busy destroying defensive linemen. Even though it seems like he is a much better fit on the offensive line right now, he- and the Ducks staff- might prove us wrong by doing a terrific job on the defensive line. Still, the Ducks need to be flexible with Armstead and put him in the best position (pun not intended) to succeed.

However, the big story here is Dion Jordan and what he did in 2011. This is one of those heart-warming breakout success stories that rivals what Alex Gordon is doing for the Kansas City Royals in baseball. Jordan was never “supposed” to be the sack artist who is one of the most disruptive players in the conference. Before the 2011 season, ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller did not have Jordan on his top 25 list. Now, he is at 2oth and rising.

The imaginary ticker next to Dion Jordan’s name is green and is pointing up, because Jordan has the upside to be a quality defensive end in the NFL. He means so much to the Oregon Ducks defense, because it definitely goes beyond statistics ( especially sacks) when analyzing pass rushers.

There aren’t any truly accurate statistics out there to analyze pressures in college football, but there is no doubt that Dion Jordan’s ability to consistently get pressure (and quickly at that) alleviates pressure from the secondary. It’s difficult to succeed on defense when you are on the field for 77 plays per game (!), but the Ducks only allowed 6.5 yards per passing attempt.

While the secondary is talented, a quarterback can have all the time in the world  to carve up a secondary with 38 passing attempts per game (season average against Ducks) without a quality pass rush. The Ducks have some other good pass rushers in Josh Kaddu and Terrell Turner, but what Jordan does (7.5 sacks) is elite. That sort of quick twitch pass rushing just destroys a QBs timing and leaves them privy to mistakes. The Ducks, like the New Orleans Saints defense a couple of years ago, bases their defense on creating turnovers and pouncing on them with their speed and skill. Dion Jordan helped the Ducks defense average 2.1 turnovers per game, including 1.2 INTs per game.

Although it is true that Jordan compiled 75% (5.0) of his sacks in three games, that’s irrelevant given the nature of statistics (sacks in particular). He did play his best games, in terms of sacks, against poorer lines, but that shouldn’t take away from his overall ability as a pass rusher. Dion Jordan was still able to consistently put pressure on the quarterback during each game, and he came on strong at the end of the year as well. Sacks totals vary from game to game, so it is inaccurate to evaluate a player’s single-game pass rushing performance based on a game’s worth of data.

Dion Jordan deserves huge credit for the Oregon Ducks quality pass defense in 2011, and he is one of the conferences best players. Expect an even better senior year out of him, and he should be at least a fourth round pick next year and should be a second or third round choice. His breakout has been a beauty to behold, and he will only continue to make an impact on the Ducks in 2012.

You can follow me on Twitter @SorianoJoe and Autzen Zoo @Autzen_Zoo.

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Tags: Alex Gordon Arik Armstead Dion Jordan Josh Kaddu Kansas City Royals National Championship New Orleans Saints Oregon Ducks Football Rose Bowl Stanford Cardinal Terrell Turner

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