In addition to the secondary, the Oregon Ducks offensive line has many shoes to fill in 2020.
A former offensive lineman himself, head coach Mario Cristobal wants ‘monsters’ in the trenches. Last season, the Oregon offensive line did its part in protecting quarterback Justin Herbert while spearheading the run game. Oregon finished second in the Pac-12 conference in rushing yards per game (174.9) and left tackle Peniei Sewell, the 2019 Outland Trophy winner, only allowed one sack on Herbert last season.
Like the secondary, 2020 will have some new faces gracing the offensive line.
Jake Hanson, Shane Lemieux, Calvin Throckmorton, Brady Aiello, Penei Sewell, and Dallas Warmack have all graduated or found new homes in the NFL. Now it’s time to find new pieces to the puzzle for Oregon’s offense that features a new quarterback but returns the entirety of the running back corp.
Who will that be exactly? Well, it’s only been one day of camp, but Cristobal named a plethora of players who can step into what Sewell left behind:
Steven Jones. T.J. Bass. George Moore. Jonah Tauanu’u. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. Dawson Jaramillo. Even Jaylen Smith, who is listed as a defensive lineman on Oregon’s current roster.
“Jaylen Smith, so that you guys have the info, is a defensive tackle for us and that’s what he’s going to be here. He’s done the unselfish thing and has volunteered himself to help on the offensive line and he has been doing a great job. Jonah Tauanu’u has done a really great job as well…
“All those guys are getting reps at tackle. Who’s taking the first ones? Most the time it’s going to be Steven [Jones]. It’s going to be George, it’s going to be T.J., it’s going to be Sala [Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu] but we’re not going to hesitate..."
So, basically everyone will get the chance to earn that starter spot. But that’s exactly the type of culture and competition Cristobal has created at Oregon.
In regards to the inside guys, it's more of the same competition.
Cristobal named (in no particular order) Alex Forsyth, Ryan Walk, T.J. Bass, Marcus Harper II and Sala [Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu as guys who can step into the center of the offensive line.
“It gives you an idea that we’re looking at 5 to 6 guys for every two to three positions,” said Cristobal.
More competition and that’s just the way Cristobal likes it. Sounds like we won’t know the first string on the depth chart until closer to November 7 when the Ducks open up the 2020 season at home against the Stanford Cardinal.
Listen to the Talkin’ Ducks Podcast here.