In Oregon’s 2016 season opener, as a freshman linebacker, Troy Dye broke onto the collegiate scene with his 11 tackle and one sack performance in Oregon’s win 53-28 UC Davis.
Now he has emerged as a leader on the Ducks’ defense, shifting from outside linebacker to inside linebacker under new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
“I just have to step into the role,” Dye said. “I have to be a big time leader. I have to try and lead the defense, be the face of the defense and try to go from there.”
Dye says that he never felt like a freshman on the field last year, which has led to his natural development as a leader.
“Whether you’re a freshman or a senior,” Dye said. “You have to fill into the spot and play college football because at the end of the day, everyone is trying to win the national championship.”
Dye’s transition to inside linebacker is a logical change after his breakout freshman season. His aggressiveness and quickness on the opposition’s snaps were seldom matched by the offenses’ abilities to react. However, he still has work to do.
“He’s getting better, you know it’s a process,” Leavitt said. “I don’t know what they did with him last year for sure, but he obviously made a lot of plays so they did some good things with him. Going to inside is just a little different form but he’s doing a pretty good job with it.”
That shift inside does not intimidate Dye. Working with Leavitt has helped him, and Dye’s confidence in himself doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s not too big of a change, it’s just a different way I’ve got to play,” Dye said. “I’m used to playing in space, now i’m in the box more. That’s just the only really big change is just coming from being in space into the box. After I kind of got that down it came easy to me, came a little bit natural so I just go with the flow.”
Last season, Oregon’s defense ranked 116th out of 127 in the FBS in total defense. Something that might have lacked was communication on the field, which head coach Willie Taggart says has progressed.
Communication is key to improving the defense.
“As long as we communicate,” defensive lineman Elijah George said. “We’re going to show some people some good things.”
That communication all comes back to Leavitt, who will not only run the defense, but be in charge of the linebackers specifically.
“He gives you the little tricks and trades and all the terminology, you hear it on a daily basis,” Dye said. “So you understand it more than being with a position coach who isn’t the guy who’s running the whole defense and running the playbook.”
Once the defense steps on the field, Leavitt loses much of the control that he has over them in practice. That’s when Dye and other defensive leaders have to step up, which is something he is not worried about.
“I’m a vocal dude in the first place so being vocal’s not a problem,” Dye said. “You have to be the quarterback of the defense when you’re playing linebacker, so I understood that, I took that role and I embraced it and I ran with it.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow