Oregon Ducks O-Line : T-Minus 23 Days
An old adage in sports is that defense wins championships. While that adage will always hold true in the old-fashioned game of football, in this new age of high-flying offenses, it is the offensive line that wins more championships. The Tom Brady-led New England Patriots have made the Super Bowl in the past decade not thanks to defenses that were consistently overturned each off-season, but the offensive line that has been rated in the top of the NFL the past decade. To put it in terms of architecture, no matter how strong the walls and roof you assemble your house with, if your foundation is sub-par, then your house will come crumbling down in just a matter of time. The offensive line is the foundation of a successful football team.
Thanks to a run-friendly and no-huddle offense, the Oregon Ducks offensive line is more important than most to a team. Coming into the 2013 season, it is the offensive line where the Ducks lost most due to seniors graduating. In total, Oregon lost a total of four offensive linemen to graduation including Kyle Long, who was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
Oregon will have three returning starters from last season on the offensive line, including elite all-conference caliber center Hroniss Grasu. Another positive for Oregon is that both offensive tackles Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone will be returning. All three of these players as well are not seniors, so the ceiling has not been reached for any of these players in their college careers.
Where Oregon will need to plug the holes is at both offensive guard positions, where seniors Long and Ryan Clanton played last season. The players most likely to fill these spots are senior Mana Greig and junior Hamani Stevens. Greig was a starter at the left guard position last season after Carson York succumbed to an injury, before he himself became injured, thus moving Long from left tackle to left guard. Stevens has been a reserve the last two seasons at Oregon and is a freak of nature in the weight room. There are also plenty more capable players in the Ducks rotation that could easily find playing time this season, including experienced players Everett Benyard and Karrington Armstrong, as well as sophomores James Euscher and Andre Yruretagoyena who will be looking to take the next step in their career.
What remains to be seen is how Oregon will, if at all, utilize their new recruits. Both Cameron Hunt and Evan Voeller come into this team as very highly-rated recruits along with Doug Brenner, who is slated to be the future for the Oregon Ducks at the center position. If Helfrich employs the same philosophy as Chip Kelly when it comes to selecting the best player to play the position and not relying heavily on seniority, then Hunt, as well as Voeller have a shot, a better one if someone gets injured. They look at potentially getting significant playing time as reserves in the Ducks offensive line rotation with the potential of Hunt earning the starting role at left guard before the season has ended.
What is a fact though, is as long as the injury bug doesn’t bite, the Oregon offensive line is in great shape for the upcoming season and Duck fans have nothing to worry about.
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