Oregon Ducks

Oregon paying $10 million for a coach would be ludicrous

Oregon paying $10 million for a coach would be ludicrous

A Tweet stating that Phil Knight is willing to pay $10 million per year for a football coach to lead Oregon to a national title should be dismissed on arrival with a chuckle because it couldn't possibly be true. 

Or could it?

A question regarding ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell's tweet was posed to UO coach Mark Helfrich on Sunday, a day after the Ducks lost 45-20 at USC to fall to 3-6 on the season. 

His response: "That's the nature of the profession. It would be cool if it was that easy." 

After a pause, Helfrich added: "I take it, it wasn't me that's getting the $10 million?"

Laughter followed.

In actuality, Helfrich would be receiving $11 million in the deal. More on that later. 

What's more pressing is how such a report, if it's true, defines how perspective levels around Oregon's poor season have reached such gutter levels that one must consider that everyone remotely associated with the program - fans, boosters, media - have all lost their damn minds. 

There is not a coach alive that's going to magically bring a national title to Oregon no matter how much Knight, or anyone, pays that person. In fact, I don't think there is a coach alive who believes he could guarantee Oregon a national title, but there are plenty who would take the ridiculous paycheck and give it the ol' college try. 

The idea of throwing that type of money around sounds like an act of desperation rather than one born from deep thought. It's an overreaction to problem that will naturally correct itself. 

Maybe I'm not as alarmed by the current state of UO's program because I saw the eventual demise coming years ago, stated as such and wrote about it while at The Oregonian in 2012. I reiterated that point in 2014 when writing that the national championship window would close after Marcus Mariota moved on to the NFL, and prior to this season called it a year of transition for a young and inexperienced team.

I certainly didn't predict 3-6 at this point, but I did predict that the rest of the conference would catch up with the "blur" offense and the Ducks' talent level would not be able to sustain a string of dominant seasons without the benefit of a fantastical, yet gimmicky offense leading the way. 

However, I also believe that the program will recover when a new influx of talent, led by a transcendent star, were allowed to develop. That star is freshman quarterback Justin Herbert, who will at least become the second greatest quarterback ever to play at Oregon when his career is over (baring injury, of course). 

Allowing this all to play out requires minimal patience, something sorely missing in this day and age. 

What's happened is that fans and boosters have so attached their own egos and emotions to the success of UO's football program that they almost believe they created that success. So, now that things have gone south the first reaction is to punish someone. 

That someone is Helfrich, who had the misfortune of following Chip Kelly, propped up as a football God because he had four great years primarily because from 2009 through 2012, most of the conference had no clue how to handle the Ducks' dizzyingly fast-paced offense.

That has changed and here we are. Those with an open mind recognize that the downfall could have happened to Kelly, as well, and in fact partly did because the final two recruiting classes he oversaw had players all over the 2015 team, and some remain this season on a team virtually void of quality senior leadership.  

Those who believe in the Kelly mythology - and haven't been watching him getting crushed in the NFL - want to believe that Helfrich ruined a good thing, and that Kelly would have kept the gravy train going into eternity. 

Not possible. 

Every program in the conference has the same amount of scholarships and is also free to hire good coaches. Simple math and probability dictate that some of those teams were going to eventually become really good and that Oregon would eventually have a rebuilding season.

What's being ignored at an alarming fashion is that this team on paper had no chance to contend this season. It's far too young and inexperienced, and the Ducks have suffered a crazy amount of injuries.  

The answer to how Oregon returns to glory is not found in simply firing a staff that consists of most of the men who played a huge part in the Ducks' greatest successes. At least don't do so after one bad season. 

Allow me to repeat that: One. Bad. Season. 

Not two. Not three. Not five. One. 

Firing everyone two years after arguably the greatest season in program history would be the lazy thing to do. It requires no imagination. Requires no foresight. No thought. Place blame. Feel superior. Prop up someone else as the savior. Feel better about yourself. 

But there's just one little problem: Who ya gonna get?

I keep waiting for someone, anyone, to name this magical coach that for $10 million will bring the Ducks a national title and never, ever have a bad season. Ever. 

Is Alabama's Nick Saban coming to Oregon? Not a chance. 

Ohio State's Urban Meyer? Ha!

Even if either one did take Knight's money and head to Eugene, there is no guarantee that they bring UO a national title. Recruiting to Eugene is far more difficult than recruiting to Alabama or Ohio State, or their former stops, LSU and Florida. 

Saban, who makes $6.9 million per year, quit on the Miami Dolphins because he didn't have the talent-gathering advantages he enjoyed at LSU. I don't think he would relish trying to win it all at Oregon. 

And if either Saban or Meyer ($6 milllion per year) have trouble winning it all for the Ducks, then who else could possibly do it?

I would assume that this God of a coach already has a national title, correct? Helfrich and company have been to two national title games, one with him as head coach. So an upgrade would have to be someone with a national title already on his resume. 

So are we talking about former championship coaches who have fallen from grace such as Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Gene Chizik? They could be had.

Maybe Oregon tries to steal Jimbo Fisher ($5.25 million) from Florida State, or Bob Stoops ($5.25 million) from Oklahoma.

Money talks. Anything is possible. 

But why would any of those men guarantee a national title for Oregon? All won big at programs with greater advantages than UO provides. 

Don't get started on the notion that Oregon should ride its facilities to uninterrupted successes. They get Oregon into the recruiting game on a national level, but they don't win that game. 

But let's say the Ducks do land a "big name," that would lead to the irony of ironies. Should that coach returns the Ducks to to prominence in 2017 or 2018, he would be doing so with Helfrich's recruits.

Oops. That would then destroy the narrative that Helfirch can't build a winning team. He already destroyed the idea that he couldn't coach a championship-level team by going 11-2 and 13-2 in his first two seasons. But his haters always seek to point out that Helfrich won with Kelly's recruits. So, to be fair, if a new coach wins early, Helfrich would have to be credited for putting the players together, starting with Herbert. 

If there is room for extreme blame to be placed at the feet of Helfrich and the coaching staff - that includes Kelly, former defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and former offensive coordinator Scott Frost - its for the lack of an adequate amount of impact players on this team. Oregon is young and inexperienced at quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker because the current starters beat out older players who didn't pan out. 

For example: Herbert is starting as a freshman only because Morgan Mahalak (2014 four-star recruit) and Travis Jonsen (2015 four-star recruit) didn't reach expectations. Similar scenarios have played out at other positions.

That has led to a young team simply not ready to win.  The staff certainly is to blame for this predicament. However, what those aching to release their venom are too blind to see is that the benefit of losing with a young team is that the players will gain experience and improve.  

We've seen this play out at Oregon before. 

The 2004 Ducks (5-6) and the 2006 Ducks (7-6) struggled with maturity and consistency, but the 2005 team (10-2) and the 2007 team (9-4) were top five teams before injuries at the quarterback position. The 2005-2006 Oregon basketball team missed the NCAA Tournament while losing many close games with four prominent sophomores and a junior leading the way. The following season the Ducks reached the Elite Eight.

There is every reason imaginable to believe that these current Ducks will also rise, and do so under Helfrich. Herbert is a superstar in the making. The offense line is loaded with four potential NFL players who need time to grow. The defense will return 10 starters next season, and there are a host of freshman and redshirt freshmen, other than linebacker Troy Dye and safety Brendan Schooler, that should be very good in the near future. 

But recognizing all of that requires effort. Vision. A willingness to think rather than react. To project, rather than punish. 

Let's forget about Helfrich for a second, because it's not all about him. A new $10 million coach would likely bring his own staff. Are those associated with the program ready to tell Don Pellum, Gary Campbell, John Neal, Jim Radcliffe and Steve Greatwood that it's time for them to go after one bad season in 10 years? 

"Thanks for helping Oregon become a national power but, you had one losing season every 10 years for the past 20 so it's time for you to go."

That doesn't seem right. 

The Oregon Ducks will rise again with the current coaching staff. No doubt. Then, it will have a down season at some point. 

A new coach could win big at Oregon. No doubt. Then he too would eventually have a down season. 

At the very least allow this staff the chance to grow this young roster. See if they can turn things around. Helfrich, an Oregonian from Coos Bay, cares about the program more than anyone else UO could hire. He will work his tail off to fix things. If he fails and the Ducks don't show improvement in 2017, by all means, make a change.

But firing him after one bad season, eating $11 million of buyout money, also buying out the assistants while firing such long-time fixtures, and then throwing crazy money at a big name out of desperation would be unseemly for the Oregon program. 

It would make the Ducks look desperate and common. Not special. Not unique. 

From Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Kelly to Helfrich, Oregon has done things the right way in the head coaching department, and it has paid off. 

Change directions now and UO would veer down an uncertain path that could lead to disaster, a revolving door of overpaid coaches in it just for the money who could ultimately leave the program in ruins. 

Former Ducks football player Fotu Leiato killed in car accident

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USATI

Former Ducks football player Fotu Leiato killed in car accident

The Eugene Police Department confirmed to KEZI News in Eugene that former Oregon Football linebacker Fotu Leiato was killed in a rollover car accident earlier this morning. 

Leiato was dismissed from the Oregon football program in May, following his second arrest of the year (April) on charges of theft, criminal trespassing, and criminal mischief. This was compounded by charges from January for misdemeanor trespassing. Leiato had 14 tackels as a linebacker for the Ducks during the 2017 season. 

More on this story as it develops. 

Fotu Leiato from the Oregon Athletic Website is pictured below:

Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame to induct Dana Altman and Kyle Korver

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USATI

Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame to induct Dana Altman and Kyle Korver

Creighton University sent the following out Wednesday morning:

The Creighton University Athletics Hall of Fame will add a pair of all-time greats to its ranks on Saturday, August 25th at the Marriott Capitol District Hotel in Omaha.

This year's inductees in the 51st Hall of Fame class are Dana Altman and Kyle Korver.

Altman was head men's basketball coach at Creighton from 1994-2010, and remains the program's all-time wins leader with a 327-176 mark. He took the Bluejays to 13 postseasons, including seven NCAA Tournaments. The Wilber, Neb., native was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2002, and in 2007 named an All-Time Coach on the MVC's All-Centennial Team. He still owns MVC coaching records with 13 consecutive postseasons, 11 straight 20-win seasons, 13 straight years of 10+ league wins, 288 league games coached and six Arch Madness titles.
 
Altman is entering his ninth year as head coach at the University of Oregon, and led the Ducks to the 2017 Final Four. He owns a 743-350 career record in 33 overall seasons as a head coach, which also includes stops at Southeast Junior College (1982-83), Moberly Junior College (1983-86), Marshall (1989-90) and Kansas State (1990-94). He is one of six active Division I coaches with 21 consecutive winning seasons, joining Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Bill Self and Jim Boeheim.

Korver competed at Creighton from 1999-2003, and remains the only men's basketball player in program history to play in four NCAA Tournaments. He was a consensus Second Team All-American as a senior, when he was named the Midseason National Player of the Year by ESPN's Dick Vitale. Korver was a two-time Valley regular-season and tournament MVP and inducted into the MVC's Hall of Fame in 2010. He remains the Creighton and MVC record holder with 371 career three-pointers made, and still ranks in the top-10 in CU history with 819 three-point attempts (first), 89.1 percent free throw percentage (first), 45.3 percent marksmanship from three-point range (third), 172 steals (fifth) and 1,801 career points (sixth).

Korver was the 51st overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft and has played with the Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers during a 15-year professional career. He is the only player to lead the NBA in three-point percentage four times, and he ranks fourth in NBA history with 2,213 career three-pointers, sixth with 43.1 percent shooting from three-point range and 16th with 88.1 percent accuracy from the free throw line.

The Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame contains 84 inductees, plus the 1991 Creighton Baseball Team. It started in 1968 with the induction with Bob Gibson, and features 31 former Bluejay men's basketball coaches and student-athletes.

The Saturday, August 25 event will commence with a social hour at 6 p.m., with the dinner and program to follow at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event are $100 per person or $1,000 for a table of 10. For former Creighton student-athletes and their immediate families, tickets are $75 per person. Reservations can be made online at: http://www.gocreighton.com/athleticevents . For more information about the event, contact Margaret Bennett by phone at 402-280-5577 or by e-mail at mbennett@creighton.edu.

Oregon Ducks Softball season comes to an unexpected early end

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UO Softball

Oregon Ducks Softball season comes to an unexpected early end

It wasn't the end to the season anyone envisioned for the Oregon Ducks who came into the NCAA College Softball World Series with a #1 ranking. Their Championship hopes were dashed this weekend by #5 Washington and #6 Florida State. The two losses ousted the Ducks from the double elimination tournament. 

Here's a quick look around Twitter following the elimination:

 

The loss that could win it all for Oregon softball

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NBCSNW staff

The loss that could win it all for Oregon softball

Let’s rewind the clock to Thursday night. No. 1 Oregon softball hosting the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats in game one of Super Regionals in front of a sellout crowd at Jane Sanders Stadium. Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Kleist calmly and cooly strikes out the first Wildcats batter, and all was right in Eugene, OR. But things took a turn real quick. Kentucky came to play and came away with a 9-6 victory over the home-town favorites to take game one of this best-of-three series vs. Oregon.

A gut-check for the Ducks. An unnerving feeling settling in. One more loss from not advancing to nationals. A must-win the next night. 

With a “backs against the wall” mentality, Oregon dug in and did not phase one bit. The Ducks went on to win 6-1 Friday evening and then an 11-1 run-rule win today to advance once again to the College World Series. 

The Ducks learned two very important lessons that Friday night that just may pay off in Oklahoma City, home of the WCWS. The first: what it feels like to lose. The second: how to bounce back from it.

The Ducks now have a taste of what it feels like to lose at this level of play, face adversity, and fight with their backs against the wall. Yes, the Ducks had three conference losses earlier in the season. But the Ducks have not experienced a loss at this caliber. Not with the season on the line and the possibility of not playing one more game.

“This is probably the best time that it could happen to us as a team,” said Oregon senior DJ Sanders on the timing of Thursday night’s loss. “Even during regionals, I don’t think we played as well as we should have or could have. So we thought, ‘ok maybe this is the wake up call we need to come out and play like we know we can or how we should be,’ so really the first game was probably the wake up call that we needed.”

“Certainly I think every team has a gut-check,” said Oregon coach Mike White. “…It happens a lot. You either got to persevere in those moments and come back and believe in what you’re doing or you go home. And so I think the finale of all, this team stepped up and that’s what you got to do, have to do.”

We learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes, and for the Oregon Ducks, those lessons, how to look adversity in the face and overcome it, may just punch a ticket into the national championship.

Backs against the wall, Oregon softball shows no fear

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NBCSNW staff

Backs against the wall, Oregon softball shows no fear

Backs against the wall, feathers ruffled, a must-win situation, Oregon softball had quite the test in front of them Friday night in front of a sell out crowd at Jane Sanders stadium. In the biggest test of their season, the Ducks are in a win or go home situation down 0-1 in a best-of-three series to the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats in NCAA Super-Regionals. After giving up nine runs on 10 hits in last night’s loss, many wondered how and if the Ducks would bounce back because Oregon had not been put in a situation like this all season long.

The Ducks haven’t given up that many runs since playing at the Arizona Wildcats in April 2017.

It was a different story tonight. Oregon came in focused, fired up, feeling good, and defeated the Wildcats 6-1.

“Just a much better overall performance, especially defensively. We made some big plays,” said Oregon coach Mike White. “You could tell we were fighting for our lives. That’s what we had to do with our backs up against the wall. I was really proud of our team… hopefully tomorrow we can do the same thing.”

“It was there and I didn’t want it to be,” said senior infielder Jenna Lilley on dropping the first game vs. Kentucky. “You have to acknowledge that that’s the reality of it and what we’re playing for to keep our season going. So definitely the thought was there but do everything we can to not let that happen.”

Freshmen sensation and home-town kid Lauren Burke has not phased a bit in her first postseason play as a collegiate player. Burke, from Marist High School here in Eugene, Oregon, has batted 5-for-6 with seven RBI’s and two homers this postseason.

But this is not over quite yet. One down, one to go. Oregon softball must have back-to-back wins over the Wildcats to advance to the college World Series. One more game tomorrow evening, 6 PM, and Jane Sanders stadium.

Will the same team that came in focused in game two repeat itself in game three? Or will the momentum swing back to Kentucky’s side as it did in game one? Softball fans are in for a real treat tomorrow night with a trip to nationals on the line.

 

Oregon softball shakin’, not stirred

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NBCSNW Staff

Oregon softball shakin’, not stirred

Four errors. Nine runs given up. 10 hits allowed… a rather uncharacteristic night for the No. 1 seeded Oregon Ducks in round one of the NCAA Super Regionals. The No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats, coming off run-ruling all three of their opponents last weekend, the bats were hot and junior Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Kleist was tested early and often. Kleist did not seem like her usual self, and besides striking out the first Kentucky batter, had a rough first inning giving up a three-run homer to Wilcats' ace hitter Abbey Cheek.

The Ducks offense did manage to put up six runs on the night, but the defense did not hold giving up four errors on bad throws.

“We know our backs are up against the wall right now,” said coach Mike White following the game. “It makes it pretty simple: we have to come out and win otherwise our season is done. I thought our team fought hard, we never gave up, we battled until the last out, unfortunately it didn’t work out today. Hopefully tomorrow it can be a different story.”

Oregon will face a do or die situation tomorrow in this best-of-three series with the Wildcats already down 0-1. 

“Kentucky, I give them a lot of credit, they came in here and they came to play. So like coach says, pretty simple, you win or you don’t,” said senior catcher Gwen Svekis.

Oregon must flush this game and move on. Focus on the task at hand, do all the little things right, and flat out win tomorrow. With their backs against the wall, how will this team respond? 

“Now, it’s what we do tomorrow and the next day that matter the most,” said White. “How are we going to bounce back? Sure we had a bad game, but if we want to be the national champions and be the number one team in the country, we need to be able to come back from this. Plenty of teams have done it before. We need to be fired up and come out and play a better game.”

Oregon softball has both the steak and the sizzle

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USA Today Kelvin Kuo

Oregon softball has both the steak and the sizzle

The No. 1 overall seeded Oregon Ducks are built on a foundation of experience. Players like seniors Gwen Svekis, Jenna Lilley, and Lauren Lindvall who have been in the national tournament before. Post-season success relies on experience such as this. But it doesn’t stop there for the Ducks.

Coach Mike White and his staff have made quiet the effort in terms of recruiting and can be seen with the electric underclassmen on this Oregon roster. 

For starters, first baseman Mia Camuso was second on the team last year with 47 RBI’s. Camuso is just a sophomore. Outfielder Shannon Rhodes made her name known last season with her powerful hitting, also just a sophomore. Haley Cruse finds herself sitting higher in the batting order this year in post-season play, combined with her speed, rounds out this impressive sophomore class. 

Two freshmen in particular really jump off the roster. Local kid Lauren Burke out of Marist High School, Eugene, Oregon, hit a two-run homer in the Ducks’ first game vs. U Albany to boost Oregon into round two of the NCAA Eugene regionals. Backing up senior Svekis behind the plate is freshman Mary Iakopo, who looks as confident as ever behind the plate, has a deadly arm, and a threat at bat as well.

Speaking on the freshman and sophomore class, coach White said, "They are putting a lot of pressure on the upperclassmen... we are loding a great senior class and that next class has to be ready to go... That's what we try to do: to have depth."

This roster has potential all-around, but the most solid group of all has to be on the mound. Pick your poison between Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year junior Megan Kleist and sophomore stud Miranda Elish, both with ERA’s under 1. On top of that, sophomore Maggie Balint proved last season as just a freshman that she can make quiet the impact as well. Elish and Kleist allowed zero runs over the course of regionals weekend.

The Oregon Ducks await the winner of the Lexington region to be played next weekend in super-regionals.

After 'OK' season with Ducks, Troy Brown thinks he is ready for NBA

After 'OK' season with Ducks, Troy Brown thinks he is ready for NBA

CHICAGO –Troy Brown’s only season at the University of Oregon didn’t go as he planned.  Not only did the team not make the NCAA Tournament, the heralded wing was only good, and not great, on the court.

Even so, after averaging 11.3, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Ducks, Brown said he saw enough in himself to declare for the NBA Draft.

“I would say it was OK,’’ he said of his freshman season in Eugene. “It wasn’t the best year, or the year I wanted. Every kid dreams of going to college and being the star player, but we all go through our ups and downs, and it’s one of those things I learned from, and I feel I matured from.’’

He said he feels the up-and-down tempo of the NBA will better suit his offensive game and complement his defensive versatility. NBA scouts seem to agree as Brown is projected to be a mid-to-late first round selection.

“I can do everything on the court,’’ Brown said. “I feel like I can score the ball really well, but at Oregon that wasn’t my (role). We had a lot of guys who could put the ball in the hoop. I was more of a glue guy, and I was ok with that. I was fine just showing my versatility and doing the hard stuff - rebounding, guarding the best player, diving for loose balls and stuff like that.’’ 

The 6-foot-7 Brown appears to be the type of hybrid player that is becoming valued in today’s NBA game – long, athletic and able to guard several positions. The knock on his game – his outside shooting – has been a point of emphasis in his predraft workouts. 

“The more repetitions, the better,’’ Brown said. 

He said he is embracing the undefined nature of what position he will play in the NBA, noting that the league is trending more toward positionless basketball. 

“I feel like coming out of college everybody sees me as a small forward, but I can still make my way up to whatever position my coach needs me to do to get the W,’’ Brown said. “That’s what I’m willing to do.’

Four players from Oregon and Washington schools who will make an impact in the NFL

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USA Today Images

Four players from Oregon and Washington schools who will make an impact in the NFL

BY TIM KEARNY 

There were nine players drafted from the University of Washington, the University of Oregon and Washington State University in this NFL draft. I have picked four of them that I think will play well in their first year.

Vita Vea, DT Washington- Tampa Bay Bucs, 1st round 12th pick

Vea is an absolute monster on the defensive line. His strength is hard to match and he will have some success with his bull rush as a pro as a rookie. Vea really shows his special ability by how quick he is, he is a smooth athlete even at more than 330 pounds. I believe his first step will still be enough to gain leverage against other linemen in the NFL and I think he could get 5 or 6 sacks his year. He was a First-Team Pac-12 player this year, and won two more Pac-12 defensive linemen awards as well. The Bucs believe in his playmaking ability too, they proved how highly they thought of him by picking him 12th overall. There is no chance for a defensive lineman to go that early unless he can get to the quarterback.

Royce Freeman, RB Oregon- Denver Broncos, 3rd round 7th pick

The Broncos grabbed one of the most dynamic and consistent playmakers at the running back position in the third round with Freeman. His nickname of “Rolls Royce” shows how smooth he can look as he is making plays with the ball in his hands. Did I mention he has more rushing touchdowns in his career than anyone else in Pac-12 history, and is in the top ten all time rushers in the NCAA? C.J. Andersen is no longer the lead running back in Denver so the door is open for Freeman to snag the starting spot over the inconsistent Devontae Booker.

Cole Madison, OG Washington State- Green Bay Packers, 5th round 1st pick

Madison’s number one trait is his athleticism, he moves better than most people his size and even people smaller than him. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers running the show so the offensive line benefits from hi mobility and quick release, this could help Madison make an impact if given the chance early on. Things are unsettled on the right side of Green Bay’s o-line and Madison could be a guy that impresses in training camp and gets the starting gig.

Tyrell Cosby, OG Oregon- Detroit Lions, 5th round 16th pick

Cosby was a First Team Pac-12 player this past season and according to Pro Football Focus did not allow a single sack or quarterback hit in 2017. Many people see his run blocking as his strength and he is very good at it but pass blocking will get him a job in the NFL. The Lions have not had a great o-line in a long time and this is another attempt to bolster it by finding the last piece. I can’t believe Crosby was still on the board in the middle of the fifth round, so he was a bit of a steal in my book. I think he could play tackle or guard for them as a fill in guy this year.