Christian French didn't take up football until his sophomore year of high school. A long, lean forward with 4.4 speed in the 40, he'd focused on basketball through grade school and junior high.
Motorhead: Christian French pressures Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly in a 43-21 victory last October. The young defensive end's ability to "play in space" makes him a valued addition to the Oregon lineup with a huge upside. (Michael Arellano/ Oregon Daily Emerald photo)
His buddy Herschel Dixon convinced him that he might be good at football too. Telling the story to Melissa Feisel of iowaprepsports.com, Dixon said, “It was a car ride,” Dixon said. “We were just driving, talking and everything. We were talking about basketball, and how he wanted to pursue that. I just told him we could really use him on the football field. Hey, I’m all for the team. I want my team to get better. A 4.3-(second) 40, 6-foot-6, absolutely. So I just told him to go out for football, he tried it, and he’s on varsity. The rest is history.”
As a high school sophomore French weighed barely 200 lbs. After two years in the Oregon weight room, he's 6-5, 242, and ready for the spotlight as Oregon's edge rusher at outside linebacker/defensive end, the position manned by Dion Jordan for the last three years.
French and Jordan roomed together in 2012, and Jordan, playing the same position with a similar body type and physical attributes, became a mentor and a model. When The Preying Mantis got picked third overall in the NFL draft last spring, his young roommate was jumping up and down on the couch like Tom Cruise, genuinely excited for his teammate.
The quick, agile redshirt sophomore pointedly switch to #96 in spring practice, a direct tribute to the player he wants to pattern his game after and follow into NFL success. In the spring game, Christian had nine tackles, including a sack of Marcus Mariota. Very Jordan-like
To say French has an upside is to scrape the gooey, tasty pineapple off the top of a pineapple upside down cake. He ran a 10.68 100 meters as a high school junior. His prep football coach Tim Lewis told Pat Harty of hawkcentral.com, “He’s one of the most athletic guys I’ve seen, but he’s never hardly lifted,” Lewis said. “He’s had to learn how to run, learn how to play football the past three years. It’s crazy what he could eventally do."
Players of French's size, length and mobility are coveted in the NFL as teams try to counter the wave of spread quarterbacks that currently terrorize defenses. For the Ducks, Nick Aliotti employs an aggressive, blitzing scheme that places a premium on flexible, versatile athletes that can run and hit.
Christian French can run, and he's learning how to hit.
He got valuable playing time as a redshirt freshman after switching over from tight end. A hamstring bothered him all through his freshman year, and defense seemed like a better fit.
Nick Aliotti is careful with his praise for the talented soph with the vast potential. During spring practice he told Adam Jude of the Oregonian, "Some days he was great and some days just not so great. "You got to come every day; you got to bring it every day. So I'm not ready to anoint him just yet because I want more out of him. He's a big body that can run, so he has the ability to be a good football player. We just need more out of him."
This September the new #96 will get major reps at the hybrid defensive end position as he splits time with junior Tony Washington, another promising athlete who's paid his dues on special teams and in blowouts. The two could give the Ducks the burst and intensity they got from Jordan, but like Jordan, they have to bring it every down.
If French follows up his great Spring Game with growing consistency and results on the field this fall, the Oregon defense could have a breakout monster coming off the edge in the 3/4-4/3 defense.
They need him to not only to match Dion Jordan's potential and work ethic, but exceed his productivity. That would be a very good thing, making the Ducks even more viable as a national championship contender.
An interview from KEZI television at spring practice, with French talking about the progress of the defense:
I'm from Iowa and my dad works with his uncle. Said he might be able to get me tickets to a game. I never really heard about him throughout school and I wonder how many other big time offers he got. He seems like a freak though and I'm excited to see him and the rest of the DEEP d-line dominate the game.
This guy is going to be a star plain and simple. I expect him to produce at a high level and he brings an extra element of athleticism Tony Washington doesn't have. He's going to be a sack machine, I expect big things from him and with a big D-line plugging holes I expect him to get a lot of TFL. I'm so excited about this kid because he will be a hidden gem on this team, almost nobody knows about him and although he hasn't played much he will do exactly what our program expects of him which is next man up and produce! I know this is WAYYYY too early to predict this but I expect him to go to the NFL and be just like Dion. Guys like this just don't come around and while Ifo and the other guys will get most of the attention, he's my sleeper to have a HUGE year for us. Obviously I'm hyping the kid up a lot but how can you not be excited about his potential just like Tyson Coleman. This defense is gonna be just fine and really open some eyes this year and dominate. You heard it here first, Christian French will bring nightmares to offensive coordinators and tackles off the edge!
I pity the poor quarterback fools that dare to oppose us. I love that part of the pineapple upside down cake. Here is my version of the DDS (Duck Death Star).
@AbcDuckFan ABC, Christian had offers from Notre Dame and Iowa. Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes really wanted him, and there was a lot of pressure on him to stay in state.
@mtallia I am as excited as you are. This kid has the potential to rock the world.
@duckified Thanks Df. Did you make this? I posted it to the website just a couple of minutes ago.