Rex Manu playing way into bigger role on Oregon Ducks' defensive line: Oregon … – OregonLive.com
EUGENE — A young, Oregon Ducks defensive lineman from Hawaii played a significant role against Stanford last week and has worked his way into potentially earning more playing time Saturday against USC.
Yet Rex Manu likely isn’t the freshman many would have picked to fill that role before the season.
At 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds Manu is a big body with a growing resume. Last fall his Mililani High School team won the Hawaiian state championship as Manu was named the state’s defensive player of the year, the type of success that allowed Oregon’s coaches to think optimistically that Manu could play immediately — and help fill the gaps on the defensive line left by the departure of Sam Kamp and Arik Armstead.
Manu has nine tackles through five games and is one of seven true freshmen to play for Oregon this fall.
“We were hopeful,” defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. “One, his size. But Rex is extremely intelligent and so he picks up things, concepts, really well.”
The Ducks needed all of that against Stanford, which bludgeoned UO using formations with seven offensive linemen. The answer was a “big” package with five defensive linemen, four linebackers and a pair of defensive backs. Manu, with his dyed blond hair curling out of his helmet, was easily spotted amid that lineup.
Perhaps UO’s largest defensive lineman, however, was not: True freshman Canton Kaumatule. Kaumatule, a five-star recruit from Honolulu power Punahou High School — which lost to Mililani in the Hawaiian prep title game — and one of the biggest catches for Oregon in its 2015 recruiting class, has struggled to see the field since debuting against Michigan State on Sept. 12 and hasn’t played in Oregon’s past three games. Due to Oregon’s policy against commenting on player availability, defensive coach Ron Aiken would only note that Kaumatule’s playing time was determined “by the doctors and trainers” but that his lack of playing time has not stemmed from any sort of discipline. In September, Kaumatule acknowledged he’d recovered slowly after suffering a concussion during a fall-camp scrimmage. He has two tackles.
It goes without saying that Oregon certainly would like Kaumatule along its line to blunt USC’s running game on Saturday at Autzen Stadium, as the Ducks attempt to force the Trojans to become more one-dimensional. In allowing 173.6 rushing yards per game, Oregon ranks 75th nationally. But its depth has been bolstered by Manu, anyway, who figured prominently in that rotation against Stanford not only because of Oregon’s need for size.
“Last week we were rotating and needed some bigger lineman,” said Pellum, whose defense is tied for 14th with 2.9 sacks per game. “The other thing is he’s been performing well. It’s a good thing for us that we have some added depth with him, but he’s earned it and then last week we definitely needed him.”
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