Depth on offensive line paves way for Ducks in ‘13

Depth on offensive line paves way for Ducks in ‘13
April 9, 2013, 7:45 am
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Eugene- You won’t be finding any of their jerseys for sale in stores, nor will they be making any highlight reel during the season. Nothing that they do falls in line with Oregon’s theme of “razzle-dazzle” on the field.

Rather, these are the guys you’ll see out of focus in the background of any De’Anthony Thomas touchdown photograph, or lifting Josh Huff in the air after a touchdown.

We’re talking of course, about the Duck’s offensive line. Personally, it’s my favorite position on the team; the big hogs upfront can keep pace with me at the dinner table, and personify the dirty work necessary to build successful seasons. They are tasked with the vital role of protecting the team’s most important individual asset; quarterback Marcus Mariota, by picking up complex blitzes and rush formation down after down. Whenever the Black Mamba slithers his way to another open field display of speed and agility, he has an offensive lineman or two to thank for the initial hole upfront.

For all of the gaudy offensive statistics Oregon has amassed in the past couple of seasons, there is naturally a lot of focus put on the play of the skill positions; quarterback, running back, tight end, and wide receiver. But any player will tell you that for the all of the action in the backfield and execution down the field, it all starts up front.

Want proof of how crucial a quality offensive line is? Look no further than USC last season. Even though they had arguably the best pure passer in college football in Matt Barkley, talented running backs, and statistical outliers at receiver in Marquis Lee and Robert Woods, they collapsed offensively without solid line play.

For the Ducks though, they have plenty of depth and experience on the line to maintain their historic offensive numbers. Anchored by junior Hronnis Grasu at center and junior Jake Fisher at tackle, the question is how soon can the rest of the line get healthy and participate in spring practice. Additionally, depth on the line is mandatory, seeing as how often most of these players seem to get knocked out of the game from time to time.

Early practice is critical for this position, as Offensive line coach Steve Greatwood stated that they “expect perfection and that’s what we’ll strive for”. Perfection for this unit means every man is on the same page, and when you put together five large humans in a such small area of field, every aspect of footwork, positioning, and technique is crucial.

What separates the Duck offensive line from more traditional lines seen in college is their size and stamina. What the Ducks lack in relative stature, they more than make up for with their conditioning, allowing them to maintain their frenzied pace of play.

With several players already citing the increased speed of practice and on field execution, the pace of this Oregon team is dictated by this unit. Expect Greatwood and the rest of the staff to challenge this experienced unit during spring practice with a pace faster than even last year’s.