When Drayton Carlberg was ejected for targeting against Washington, he got a request from Oregon’s strength coaches as he headed to the locker room.
“They came up to me and said to get the crowd going, do what you can,” Carlberg recalled. “I decided to get the crowd going because that is a big factor.”
Moments after Carlberg thrilled the crowd of 58,691 at Autzen Stadium earlier this month by sacking Washington quarterback Jake Browning for an 8-yard loss late in the first quarter, the noise switched to boos when officials ruled Carlberg made helmet-to-helmet contact with Browning and was ejected from the game.
“It’s definitely a tough play for me and the refs,” said Carlberg, who had little reaction time between when Browning turned toward him and he delivered the hit. “I hit him pretty hard, but it is up to the refs and they felt they they had to protect the quarterback. It’s whatever, I’m not mad about it.”
Carlberg waved his arms to the crowd as he exited Oregon’s sideline and slapped hands with fans as he neared the tunnel to the locker room.
That wasn’t much of a departure from his demeanor on the field.
“I like to play with a lot of passion,” the junior defensive end said. “I believe if you are not playing with passion then you shouldn’t be playing football because you have to love the game if you are going to play it.”
The 6-foot-5, 282-pound Carlberg could make his first of the season Saturday night when No. 19 Oregon (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12 Conference) visits Arizona (3-5, 2-3). He is listed on the depth chart behind sophomore Austin Faoliu, who has battled injuries the past month and has yet to practice this week, leading coach Mario Cristobal to list him as “50-50” to play against the Wildcats.
When Faoliu left last month’s 38-31 overtime loss to Stanford due to injury, Carlberg came in to make three tackles, including a stop of Cameron Scarlett on fourth-and-one.
“Always be ready to play, that’s what I came here to do,” Carlberg said. “Whenever you get the opportunity, you have to kick the door in and play to the best of your ability.”
The lone start of Carlberg’s career came as a freshman in 2016 at Nebraska before his season ended early with an ankle injury. He has played in all 20 games for Oregon during the past two seasons.
“He has played real well in the moments he’s been in there,” Cristobal said. “He had the big fourth-down stop early in the season, I know he was cut short in the UW game, but even last week, he just gets better and better.”
Carlberg is tied for second on the team with 2 ½ sacks that ranks him fifth on the team in tackles-for-loss.
“He is smart and plays hard, uses his hands well,” Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt said. “He’s a really good football player who has done a good job this year.”
Carlberg was an all-state lineman at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis and ranked as a three-star recruit in 2014 when his coach Sean McMenomy recommended him to Oregon assistants Scott Frost and Erik Chinander, who had success recruiting DeLaSalle during their previous stint at Northern Iowa. With Big Ten schools Michigan State, Illinois and Minnesota among those who offered him a scholarship, Carlberg signed with the Ducks.
“I think I just wanted to get out on my own a little bit and develop myself as a person,” Carlberg said. “Being out here on the West Coast was a good way to do that, get away from home. I love it out here.”