When you think of Oregon football’s linebacking corps, two names come to mind: Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. Both were members of the 2020 recruiting class and were also five-star prospects, ranked in the top-15 nationally.
Sewell, the younger brother of Penei Sewell who is now a Detroit Lion, had a breakout freshman season in 2020, earning Freshman All-American honors. Flowe was injured during his freshman season, but he was the No. 6 overall recruit in the class and the hype surrounding him was unreal. He is now projected to start in 2021 with the transfer of Isaac Slade-Matautia and Oregon fans couldn’t be more excited.
Those are the two names that continue to pop up when talking about Oregon linebackers, but one seems to be forgotten: Mase Funa.
The Ducks have three of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 in Flowe, Sewell, and Funa, but the latter is somehow overlooked. He came to Oregon as one of the top linebackers in his recruiting class and has starting experience, recording 61 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and four sacks in 19 career games. And he’s just getting started.
Now in that full-time starting role with no one really pushing him for snaps, Funa can finally play free and let loose on a weekly basis. Plus, he’ll have Flowe, Sewell, and Adrian Jackson taking pressure off him game in and game out.
Funa prepared for All-Pac-12 season with Oregon football
Having two borderline All-American talents lined up next to you in the linebacking corps can help a budding player more than you might think.
Funa has never quite lived up to his lofty potential, but that will change this season with expectations lowered a bit for him with the addition of Flowe to the starting lineup. People will still expect good linebacker play from Funa, but he doesn’t have to be a superstar.
On top of that, Funa has said that he loves the new defense run by Tim DeRuyter and maybe that’ll instill some extra motivation. He seems to love the way the defense looks now and the fact that he can still rush on the edge while dropping back in coverage in most sets. He’s not limited to one single role and that freedom will allow him to grow as a player.
I think the best of Funa is yet to come and we’re going to see plenty of glimpses of it this year.