*DeForest Buckner, the Pac-12's defensive player of the year, spent last season rushing off the edge and had his most productive year yet. But he's just as capable being a force on the inside, too. *
At 6-foot-7, 291 pounds, Oregon's standout defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is used to people calling him big.
It starts with his hands, which measure at 11 3/4 inches.
"Growing up, I always knew I had kind of big hands," Buckner said. "My siblings used to take fun of me. Coming here, I kind of knew I'd measure at a pretty big size."
In fact, that trait extended to the Ducks' entire defensive line in 2014, which included 6-foot-8, 290 pounder Arik Armstead and thr 6-foot-4, 310 pound Alex Balducci.
"I'm pretty sure every game we played, the O-linemen when we got on the field, they looked at me, him and Balducci and they were all like 'Man, you guys are as big as hell,'" Buckner said. "We'd be looking at each other and just laugh because, literally, every team we played against they said the same thing."
Certainly the Pac-12's defensive player of the year has modeled some of his game after Armstead, who now plays with the 49ers, but he says he is more than just a physical presence that tries to barge over opposing linemen. He possesses some athleticism that Armstead lacked and prides himself on being able to play every spot on the line.
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"I'm one of the best D-linemen in this draft," Buckner said. "I played in every technique possible, from nose and rushing outside at end. I can do everything. I can stop the run. I can also rush the passer, which I did a lot better this year. They can get a complete defensive lineman when they pick me."
Buckner finished his four years at Oregon with 232 tackles and 18 sacks along with two forced fumbles, which included a trip to the National Championship game against Ohio State at the end of the 2014 season, something Buckner called a big "learning curve."
The most noteworthy jump that Buckner took was in the sack column, moving from four in his junior year to 10.5 as a senior.
"It's really just the finishing part," said Buckner, who doesn't claim to have any issue in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. "Throughout the years, I've been getting back there, I haven't been able to break down and finish and complete the sack. The quarterback would always get away from me. This year, in the offseason, I really focused on closing down when I get toward the quarterback."
The way he did that?
"I just felt like a bully on the field," he said. "I was just more comfortable. I knew coming into this season, I could really have my way with some guys. And when I stepped on the field, I just tried to be a bully."
Buckner, originally from Hawaii, had his life change when, while in high school, his father suffered extensive wounds in a motorcycle injury that landed him in the hospital. He was put into a medically-induced coma that lasted six months.
During that time, Buckner learned how to become the man of the family, something that only added to his responsibilities as he dedicated more time to sports.
"I had to mature a lot earlier than some of my friends," Buckner said. "At times, I had to take care of my younger brother -- trying to stay on him when he was having troubles in school. Just being able to do extra things that my dad used to do around the house that I had to pick up and do to help my mom out. She was working all day, all night…It really helped me mature into the man I am today. My extended family was a lot of help, too, helping me and my family in that devastating time."
Now, as he prepares to be selected in the first round, he says he has thought about the possibility of joining San Francisco to play with his former teammate and former head coach in Chip Kelly.
"We talk about it all the time, being reunited," Buckner said. "Just taking the lead together it would be a crazy experience, being able to play with him again and having our old coaching staff."