First-year Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich has yet to see Kayvon Thibodeaux in person.
The Oregon sophomore defensive end was the top high school prospect in the ESPN300, the No. 1 player from the state of California, and held offers from Alabama, USC, Florida, and Oklahoma amongst others before choosing Oregon.
Thibodeaux made a splash his freshman year finishing with a team-high nine sacks (a program freshman record), 14 tackles for loss, led the nation with seven sacks in the fourth quarter, and was named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
While Thibodeaux will demand much of the attention for the Washington State offensive line this upcoming Saturday, Rolovich understands the Oregon defense doesn’t end by just containing the defensive end.
“You talk about a freshman really coming in and making an impact. You can only anticipate him being bigger, stronger, faster, more seasoned as a pass rusher and just as a college athlete,” said coach Rolovich. “He’s definitely one that made a lot of noise last year by his play. Rightfully ranked recruiting wise where he was. But it’s not like he’s the only one you got to worry about on the defense. There’s great DBs, there’s confidence and a good coach. Andy Avalos - I’ve gone against him a few times - he’s a good Xs and Os guy and he’s a good person.
The two coaches have gone against one another in the Mountain West Conference: Avalos the former Boise State Defensive Coordinator and Rolovich the head coach at Hawaii. Avalos’s defense getting the better of Hawaii on both occasions:
- 2015: Boise State 55, Hawaii 0
- 2016: Boise State 52, Hawaii 16
But this is a new team, new conference and weird year as these two will meet up for the first time once again since the 2016 season.
Rolovich knows that the Oregon secondary lost three impactful starters from last year’s Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl team (Jevon Holland, Thomas Graham Jr. and Brady Breeze all opted out of this season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft) - but with the way head coach Mario Cristobal has recruited to Eugene, Oregon, it’s not necessarily rebuilding, but rather reloading.
“Hard for me to say if there was any fall off,” said coach Rolovich. “I know [Mario] Cristobal didn’t feel like there was a whole lot if any. I know they’ve been recruiting well, at least it showed up vs. Stanford with confidence. Really talented athletes but playing in the scheme really well. You would anticipate them to have four guys who would win their matchup man-to-man, so that could be one of the thought processes.
The Ducks (1-0) and Cougars (1-0) will kickoff at 4 PM (PT) on Saturday at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington.