Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018.
Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: LT Tyrell Crosby isn't sorely missed.
Key losses: Senior Tyrell Crosby Cameron could be a first-round pick in April's NFL Draft. Jake Pisarcik started at guard in 2017. Senior backup Doug Brenner is also gone.
Projected 2017 starters: Left tackle Calvin Throckmorton, RJr., (6-5, 307); left guard Shane Lemieux, RJr., (6-4, 317); center Jake Hanson, RJr., (6-5, 302); right guard George Moore, Jr., (6-6, 300); right tackle Brady Aiello, RSo., (6-7, 307).
What we know: Losing Crosby will sting. No way around it. However, returning proven talent with Throckmorton, Hanson and Lemieux, as well as Aielllo, who has made numerous starts, lessons the blow.
That foursome will make for more than just a legit unit. It could be great and will keep the Ducks' running game humming.
What we don't know: Who fits where? Throckmorton could remain at right tackle allowing Aiello to start at left tackle, where he saw starts in 2016 during Crosby's 10-game absence. Or, if Throckmorton is the best tackle on the team, he might be better served at left tackle.
The wild card here is Moore, who could start at a tackle spot, forcing Throckmorton to guard. Or, maybe Aiello plays some guard, but at 6-7 that might not be a natural fit.
This all, of course, is a good problem for coach Mario Cristobal to have as he searches for the best mix.
What must happen for Oregon to contend: The Ducks simply need to find a lineup that makes Crosby's departure not hurt too much. That starts with identifying the best left tackle that can keep heat off of quarterback Justin Herbert's backside. Crosby rarely allowed anyone to ever get near the quarterback and he will be rewarded with a fat NFL contract this spring. If left tackle is properly anchored, then the rest of the line will fall into place.
Next up: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 5)...: A young secondary develops.