New Oregon defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter had his introductory press conference Monday afternoon where we learned a lot, but the coach's enthusiasm over one player, in particular, will have Ducks fans jazzed: Kayvon Thibodeaux.
"He's somebody who's really dynamic, unique," said the new Ducks hire.
DeRuyter spoke about how he plans to use the former five-star prospect all over the front seven rather than pigeonholing him into just being an edge rusher. Obviously, Thibodeaux's specialty is rushing the quarterback off the edge but he's capable of doing more, which he showed in spurts in Andy Avalos' defense.
"We will have the flexibility depending on the package and personnel that we're in to have him [in the primary pass-rushing position] but we're going to move him around a bunch," explained DeRuyter.
"I've already sat down with KT and explained to him, we're probably not going to have him playing a 4i at all but we're going to move him around."
Thibodeaux focused on improving his body heading into his sophomore season so he could play the 4i position, the player who lines up on the center side of the tackle, and got up to 250 pounds. While he will not line up there next season, the Ducks plan to take full advantage of his elite defensive abilities.
With DeRuyter calling the shots, the opposing offense will need to take note of where Thibodeaux's lined up rather than knowing he will line up at the edge. Not only will that small mental process give the quarterback another factor to account for while undergoing his pre-snap reads, but it will also take full advantage of Thibodeaux's versatility.
"Because he's so athletic, when teams try to slide a protection to him and chip him and take him out of a game, we'll also have the ability to run some false pressures where he's actually going to be in coverage and they'll waste those guys and we'll be able to use his athleticism in space," explained DeRuyter.
In fact, Thibodeaux reminds DeRuyter of one of his former pupils who he coached as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M a decade ago: Von Miller.
"[Thibodeaux] is probably the first person that I've seen in a while who has that explosiveness off the edge like Von [Miller]," said DeRuyter.
In Miller's senior season playing in DeRuyter's 3-4 scheme, he posted 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss, despite being held back by an ankle sprain for six games, and won the Butkus Award which is given to the nation's most outstanding linebacker. The Denver Broncos selected the future Super Bowl MVP second overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
"On third down, we moved Von from an A gap to a B gap to a C gap," recalled DeRuyter. "We moved him all around to try and take advantage of matchups. Having a special athlete like KT, you can do those kinds of things, particularly on third downs."
WIth DeRuyter as defensive coordinator, Thibodeaux seems poised for a career season.
In just 19 games as an Oregon Duck, he has amassed 12.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles-for-loss while winning the 2020 Pac-12 Championship MVP. Now, with his eyes set on the Heisman Trophy, Thibodeaux wants to make a final leap before being NFL Draft eligible.
But if all this talk of moving Thibodeaux around may worry you he will not be doing what he does best as much, do not worry. DeRuyter addressed those concerns as well.
"I've already talked with Coach Cristobal I'm not going to be dumb enough to have him in coverage all the time, his major value is rushing the quarterback and putting some fear in those tackles in this league.
"We're certainly going to have him do that a bunch."