Oregon defensive end Christian French, a redshirt sophomore from John F. Kennedy High School (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), enters his third season with the Oregon program.
French has taken over the No. 96 uniform from former Duck Dion Jordan who recently when No. 3 in the 2013 NFL Draft to the Miami Dolphins. The comparisons between the two is surreal. Jordan and French both began their Oregon careers as tight ends wearing No. 82, but ultimately switched to No. 96 and into Oregon’s hybrid drop end/outside linebacker role. French, however, is just developing into the role.
Interesting note: Jordan and French even roomed together last year.
French played numerous sports in high school including football, basketball and track and field. He earned second-team all-Metro and all-Conference honors as a basketball player as a sophomore. That same year he finished with 33 tackles and four pass breakups as a safety, his original prep football position. However, French had his breakout year as a junior recording 77 tackles and four pass breakups as a safety. He also ran a 10.68 in the 100 meters for the Cougar’s Track and Field team.
As he continued to develop and become bigger, he eventually moved around on the football field. French started at tight end and outside linebacker his senior season. He totaled 71 tackles, three sacks, 10 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. On offense he recorded 10 receptions for 111 yards and three carries for 85 yards and one touchdown. A tight end who can catch and run? Should remind you of current Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla. French was named Iowa all-State first-team choice, all-Metro and all-Mississippi Valley Conference honors.
French, a participant in the 2011 U.S. Army All-American game, was one of the Ducks’ top signees in what may end up being the greatest recruiting class in Oregon history. Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports all gave French a 4-star ranking. Scout was the lone site to list French as a 3-star.
French ran a 4.4 40-yard dash his senior season and was a lanky 6’5″ 226 lbs. According to Scout, French claimed he could bench 265 lbs, squat 320 and had a 37″ vertical jump.
He received plenty of attention from other top programs across the country. French received offers from Iowa, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Wisconsin among many others. His final decision came down to Oregon, Iowa and Notre Dame before eventually signing with the Ducks. Tom Osborne was the primary recruiter involved for the Ducks.
French redshirted and worked with the scout team in 2011. The team moved him over to the defensive side of the ball during the spring before the 2012 season due in part to the depth at TE and his versatility to play either role.
French appeared in nine games last season recording 13 total tackles (eight unassisted, five assisted). He had his best performance of the season in a blowout win over Tennessee Tech, recording a career-high four tackles (three unassisted) and showed his potential.
But his most impressive performance came in the 2013 Spring Game when he appeared to be the heir apparent to Jordan. French was the star defensively with a team-high nine tackles (seven unassisted, two assisted) along with a sack for a loss of five yards.
The Oregon linebacker corp is the most depleted unit going into 2013 with starters Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Jordan all off to the NFL. Only SAM linebacker Boseko Lokombo returns to the starting unit. Six Ducks will be battling for three different starting jobs.
Along with French, juniors Tony Washington Jr. and Derrick Malone and sophomores Tyson Coleman, Rahim Cassell and Joe Walker will all compete for playing time. It’s believed that Malone will take the starting weakside linebacker job (Coleman to back him up), Cassell at the middle linebacker spot (Walker to back him up) and Washington Jr. and French to battle for the drop end role.
Washington Jr. earned the starting spot in the spring game, but French will give him a run for his money over summer/fall camp and into next season.