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Buckner carries on a striking start.

Byline: Rob Moseley The Register-Guard

When DeForest Buckner was being recruited by Oregon out of Punahou School in Honolulu - Barack Obama's alma mater - UO defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro was upfront about the potential for early playing time.

Work hard enough, Azzinaro told Buckner, and there was a chance to crack the Ducks' primary rotation on the line of eight guys, give or take.

Buckner, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound end who also lettered four times in basketball for Punahou, did just that, and was on the field for the Ducks' opener this season. The true freshman was third-string at defensive end, behind juniors Taylor Hart and Jared Ebert, but managed to finish with three tackles against Arkansas State.

Ebert suffered a knee injury that night, and Buckner moved up to second-string, on the same unit as fellow freshman end Arik Armstead. Now, with senior Isaac Remington in line to miss the Ducks' game Thursday at Arizona State, Buckner or Armstead could be starting against the Sun Devils.

If Oregon (6-0) is able to weather Remington's injury and remain on track for a national-title shot, Buckner's willingness to take Azzinaro's words to heart could prove invaluable.

"I was just working my butt off," Buckner said Saturday, when the Ducks resumed daily practices after their bye week. "I knew Coach Azz wouldn't lie to me, so here it came."

Remington, arrested early Friday on a DUII charge and suspended indefinitely by UO coach Chip Kelly, was in pads for practice Saturday morning. Armstead said Oregon's practice rotation "stayed the same," indicating that Remington participated, and Buckner said Remington was "still playing the same role as he's always been," despite the suspension.

"If a kid's out, a kid's out," Kelly said when asked about Remington's status. "He's going to come to practice and be here with his teammates; he's not going to be home feeling sorry for himself. But he's not going to participate."

Presumably, Kelly was indicating that Remington wouldn't participate in games, and UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti also spoke as if the Ducks were planning to play without him. Aliotti otherwise declined to comment on Remington's situation, and Kelly offered no update on Remington's suspension, which was "pending clarification" of details from the traffic stop, according to the announcement from the Ducks on Friday.

Armstead said he was "shocked" to hear the news of the arrest of Remington, a husband and father who, at 23 years old, is among Oregon's oldest players. (The Ducks in recent years ended the practice of including players' birth dates on the roster.)

"There's nothing I can really do about it, so I'd rather not talk about it," senior defensive end Dion Jordan said. "I just know Thursday, as a defense, we'll be prepared and ready."

Aliotti said coaches planned to meet after Saturday's practice to discuss their defensive line rotation should Remington be unavailable. Backup nose tackle Ricky Heimuli could be moved up to fill Remington's starting spot, with either Heimuli or starting nose tackle Wade Keliikipi moving over to Remington's position, but Aliotti said there was "a good shot" Armstead or Buckner could be called upon.

Both Aliotti and Kelly indicated that a younger backup or even a redshirting freshman likely wouldn't be pressed into action to fill out the rotation.

Buckner has nine tackles this season, with one sack among his two tackles for loss. Armstead has 14 tackles with one-half of a sack, and each has been credited with one quarterback hurry.

"To play college football at this level as a true freshman is pretty impressive," Kelly said.

Buckner said he's practiced at multiple positions on the line, and so could play either the end position where he's been the backup to Hart in recent weeks, or at Remington's position, which is listed as a tackle but looks like an end in 3-4 formations.

Armstead spoke Saturday of working on his "striking" ability, or the force with which he hits an offensive lineman. He said improved knowledge of Oregon's scheme frees him up to be more physical at the point of attack; getting his shoulder pads lower - despite his 6-foot-7 frame - provides better leverage for doing so.

"I think I'm getting a lot better, all aspects of my game," said Armstead, who played recent games with one hand wrapped to protect a finger injury. "Striking, seeing the plays, the scheme, getting a better understanding of the defense. I think I've grown a lot - and still have a lot of growing to do."

NO. 2 OREGON VS. ARIZONA STATE

6 p.m. Thursday, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz. TV: ESPN. Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KZEL-FM (96.1).
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Title Annotation:Oregon Football; Precocious freshman is in line for extra time as defense's depth withers
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Oct 14, 2012
Words:773
Previous Article:OBITUARIES.
Next Article:Ducks dash Huskies' streak.

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