Kayvon Thibodeaux has spoken to Gus Cumberlander since the popular defensive end was carted off the field last Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
But not about X’s and O’s.
Or trying to fill the void on No. 13 Oregon’s defensive line against Colorado on Friday night at Autzen Stadium (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
The talented true freshman just wanted the injured fifth-year senior to know the Ducks are thinking about him.
Cumberlander’s season ended with a serious left knee injury suffered during Oregon’s 17-7 win over California.
Thibodeaux is the next man up.
“I’ve been just consoling him,” Thibodeaux said. “The situation is devastating. We haven’t really talked much football, just people, connecting as friends, connecting as brothers.”
Cumberlander was finally enjoying the spotlight as a starter for Andy Avalos, his fourth defensive coordinator since joining the program.
Through five games, Cumberlander had seven tackles (2.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks) and two quarterback hurries.
“Gus has done a tremendous job. That was heartbreaking,” Avalos said. “Just from my time here, from day one, Gus has done an unbelievable job and was growing in so many different ways …
“It’s going to be a big loss for us there.”
Thibodeaux was already making a push for more playing time after finishing with 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble against Cal.
Now the five-star recruit will be counted on to help contain and pressure Steven Montez.
In 2016, Colorado’s dynamic quarterback had 333 yards passing, 135 yards rushing and four touchdowns during the Buffaloes’ 41-38 win at Autzen.
“Honestly, for me individually, it’s going to be being in shape and really running to the ball and getting there in time,” Thibodeaux said of the challenge. “Second-effort plays and things like that.”
DJ Johnson, who had a team-high seven tackles with a sack against Nevada, is listed as the co-starter with Thibodeaux on the depth chart this week.
Avalos, whose unit has allowed one touchdown over the opponents’ last 51 drives, feels good about the depth on the defensive line.
But losing Cumberlander took an emotional toll inside the locker room.
“I really do feel bad for my guy Gus because I love Gus. I mean, that’s my brother for real,” senior linebacker Troy Dye said. “He’s been putting in all of the work over these past four or five years, doing everything right on and off the field, doing everything he can do to get out there and showcase his talents. He’s done that the past five weeks and was putting on a really good show, putting together some really good tape.
“And for that to happen to him really does devastate me and really does devastate him and devastates a lot of the older guys on this team.”
Montez is the nation’s 12th-leading passer, averaging 292.6 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Colorado’s offensive line has only allowed five sacks, which ranks 11th nationally.
“With Gus going down, there’s obviously a sense of step up,” Thibodeaux said. “They are looking upon me and DJ to step up and fill the spot. I guess I will see more reps this week.”
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