With spring practice over, The Oregonian/OregonLive is reviewing Oregon’s depth chart position by position. We continue the 25-part series by looking at the nose tackles.
EUGENE — Oregon has two of the best and most experienced nose tackles in the Pac-12 in Popo Aumavae and Sam “Taki” Taimani.
With Aumavae missing spring due to offseason shoulder surgery, Taimani got to take the majority of the reps with the starters and showed he’s going to be an imposing presence for the Ducks in the fall.
Together they should give Oregon the ability to load up against run-heavy teams like Utah and not be physically outmatched as badly as a year ago.
Post-spring depth chart
Popo Aumavae: 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, sixth-year redshirt-senior OR
Sam Taimani: 6-foot-2, 330 pounds, fifth-year redshirt-junior
Keanu Williams: 6-foot-6, 304 pounds, sophomore
Maceal Afaese: 6-foot-4, 282 pounds, third-year redshirt-freshman
Aumavae had 36 tackles with three for loss last season, missing the Alamo Bowl due to the shoulder injury.
He had eight of those stops during the first meeting with Utah, underscoring how important his development is going to be to Oregon closing the gap with last year’s conference champion.
The sixth-year senior missed spring but is on track to return to the field during fall camp.
Taimani made the rare UW to UO transfer, helping Oregon and hurting Washington in the process. He had 43 tackles with two for loss, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery over 11 games last season.
Taimani’s contributions were consistent and he showed up biggest against run-heavy offenses, which stands to reason and again underscores how beneficial it could be for Oregon to have him and Aumavae paired in those matchups.
Keanu Williams had three tackles last season and Maceal Afaese had one. They were in line to possibly see more snaps until Taimani’s addition. Williams was at nose tackle during the spring game.
Sir Mells and Ben Roberts will both be on the interior with Mells the more likely to be at nose.
“(Spring) is really a great opportunity for a lot of the young guys to gt reps like Keanu Williams, Sua’ava Poti, Maceal Afaese. Trying to get them as many reps as they can.” – Defensive line coach Tony Tuioti
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