When asked about his 2012 group of linebackers, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti beams and lavishes high praise. “They’re probably the best we’ve had” say’s Aliotti. And considering two of the best ( Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger ) are now in the NFL, that’s high praise indeed from the veteran defensive coach who’s entering his 21st season with the Ducks.
One of the prominent players of that group is ( 6’3 225lb ) Boseko Lokombo. Lokombo, a 3rd year junior, is arguably one of the most athletic and agile linebackers on this years squad and that’s saying a lot considering he’s sharing the defensive stage with veterans Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. “We have a lot of experience….a lot of chemistry together” said Lokombo after Thursday mornings practice session. “We lost some good linebackers in the past. This year I think the biggest difference is the leadership, the experience and the chemistry.”
Lokombo admits he’s really just now finding his way into the position. And it’s a variety of positions he plays in Aliotti’s disguise oriented defense. Aliotti runs both a 3-4 and 4-3 depending on the team he’s facing and what his lengthy study sessions have yielded in what offense he’ll face. Lokombo is strong and sturdy enough to be a down lineman and he’s also athletic and quick enough to drop into coverage. In one instance last year against Stanford, Aliotti split Lokombo out wide in what looked to be a slot defender position, however when the ball was snapped Lokombo sprinted into the backfield and sacked QB Andrew Luck. “He never saw him coming” said Aliotti. That’s the simplistic beauty of an athlete like Lokombo. He’s able to line up from a variety of different positions and beat you from all of them.
This Oregon defense is the beneficiary of Boseko Lokombo’s athletic ability. In the offseason during conditioning drills, Lokombo led all linebackers in the electronic 20 yard and 40 yard dash at 2.84 seconds and 4.84 seconds respectively. He’s also extremely strong lifting 330 pounds in the power clean. That speed led to two interceptions last year – both returned for touchdowns, one of those a 67 yard return against the Nevada Wolfpack.
Conventional wisdom and college football analysts around the country are saying this 2012 edition of the Oregon defense led by these experienced linebackers will be one of the toughest the Pac-12 has seen in years,…if not in decades. Since Kelly became head coach three years ago, team speed has been his calling card. He and his coaching staff have made a determined effort to recruit players with speed and size at all positions. When looking at Lokombo, you can see why he was recruited by linebackers coach Don Pellum. His chisled frame is slender enough to give him the speed he needs and his muscular size at 6’3 and 225 pounds allows him to take on heavy powerful lineman like he faced against Wisconsin, LSU and Auburn.
Born in the Congo, Lokombo comes from a family of four brothers and two sisters. His dream is to one day play in the NFL and help take care of his family. “I think about it everyday” said Lokombo. “There’s been a lot of players in this program in the past that are now playing in the NFL. I feel like I’m good enough to play at the next level. I just have to keep improving.”
Only a junior, Lokombo still has a lot of time to improve. Barring injury, he’ll take a huge leap forward this year and still have a year of eligibility remaining following this season. The question is, will the lure of the NFL come calling if the Ducks have another run at a BCS game.
Watch the video interview with Boseko Lokombo by clicking on the box above.