Penei Sewell

WATCH: Penei Sewell's emotional acceptance speech of the Outland Trophy

WATCH: Penei Sewell's emotional acceptance speech of the Outland Trophy

A month ago, Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell won the Outland Trophy which recognizes the nation's top interior lineman.

He became the first Oregon Duck and the first Polynesian football player to win the award.

In his emotional acceptance speech, he remembers talking to Coach Cristobal about winning the award and bringing it to Eugene.

I will never forget. It was right after fall camp, before the season started, [Cristobal] looked me in the eye and said 'Don't wait. Go get it this year.' Well coach, I'm here and I went and got it.

Sewell clearly adores his head coach: "The trust you have in me and the confidence you gave to me is the reason why I'm standing here. And I'm forever grateful for you. Forever thankful for the way you've treated me and my family. You are a man of your word."

But reading the quotes doesn't do his speech justice, watch it for yourself. 

 

Oregon vs. Wisconsin by the numbers: Offensive and defensive lines compared

Oregon vs. Wisconsin by the numbers: Offensive and defensive lines compared

Both the Oregon Ducks (11-2, 9-1 Pac-12) and Wisconsin Badgers (10-3, 8-2 Big Ten) prioritize their rushing attack and playing more physical than the opponent. The Wisconsin Badgers especially desire to dominate time of possession since they run on over 70 percent of their offensive plays to keep churning clock. You can’t play that way without stellar play from your offensive line. However, the Ducks’ offensive line was named a finalist for the Joe Moore Award.

To put it simply, the winner in the trenches will win the 2020 Rose Bowl. 

A quick glance at the numbers.

RUSHING YARDS PER GAME:

Oregon: 185.8 yards per game

Wisconsin: 201.1 yards per game

RUNNING PLAYS PER GAME:

Oregon: 36.6 attempts per game

Wisconsin: 43.8 yards per game

RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED:

Oregon: 106.8 yards per game

Wisconsin: 104.0 yards per game

SACKS ALLOWED PER GAME:

Oregon: 1.76 per game

Wisconsin: 1.84 per game

SACKS PER GAME:

Oregon: 3.15 per game

Wisconsin: 3.76 per game

TACKLES-FOR-LOSS PER GAME:

Oregon: 7.23 per game

Wisconsin: 6.69 per game

OREGON (11-2 9-1 Pac-12)

Under Mario Cristobal, the Ducks have embraced being the most physical team every time they step on the field. As a former offensive line coach, he still insists on coaching the line to give the correct fundamentals. The result? An offensive line that was not only a finalist for the Joe Moore Award given to the nation’s best offensive line, but the Outland Trophy winner sophomore Penei Sewell. 

Just look at how they handled a Utah defense that leads the nation in rushing defense.

The defensive line for the Ducks has plenty of talent to compete with the Badgers. Their defensive unit ranks tenth in the nation in rushing defense, giving up only 106.8 yards per game. 

Players to watch:

Junior Jordon Scott will demand double teams or else he’ll terrorize the backfield. Just look at when he blew up Washington’s quarterback sneak attempt during his sophomore season on a 4th and 1. 

The freshman phenom Kayvon Thibodeaux came into the season hoping for a double digit sack season. He currently sits at nine on the season. In the Pac-12 Championship, the former No. 1 high school player in the nation had his best game of his career with a blocked punt and 2.5 sacks.

Sophomore Penei Sewell was named the best interior lineman in the nation, so of course he’ll be named a player to watch. He even got some votes for the Heisman Trophy. When the Ducks need to get a few yards, they’ll likely run to the left side of the line behind Sewell and senior guard Shane Lemieux. 

WISCONSIN (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten)

Wisconsin wants to run the ball and does so on 70 percent of their offensive plays. That philosophy can only go as far as the offensive line can get them. Jonathan Taylor may be the nation’s most prolific running back, but a running back is only as good as the blocks set by his linemen. Their defensive line isn’t a slouch either as their defense ranks eighth in the country in rushing defense. 

Players to watch:

Center Tyler Biadasz was a unanimous All-American in 2019 and first-team All-Big Ten in 2018 and 2019. The junior also took home the Rimington Trophy Award which is given to the nation’s best center, becoming the first Badger to do so. He’s considered the Badger’s best professional prospect and expected to go in the first or second round in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft assuming he declares.

While the Badgers rotate their defensive line a lot, sophomore Matt Henningsen has been the most productive defensive lineman on the team this season totaling 24 tackles and 4 sacks. Their line mostly tries to fill gaps for their linebackers to finish plays though.

Oregon Ducks OT Penei Sewell named Co-Polynesian College Football Player of the Year

Oregon Ducks OT Penei Sewell named Co-Polynesian College Football Player of the Year

The awards just keep coming for Penei Sewell.

The consensus All-American and reigning Outland Trophy winner’s latest award came from the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, who gave him the Co-Polyenisan College Football Player of the Year, along with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. 

Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal broke the news to Sewell and his family.

Sewell becomes the second Oregon Duck to win the award following Marcus Mariota in 2014, the inaugural recipient of the award. 

Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Chairman Jesse Sapolu gave a statement on awarding both players the award this season.

On behalf of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors, we congratulate Tua and Penei on terrific seasons. They are both tremendous role models and a source of great pride for Polynesians everywhere.

Sewell and Tagovailoa will receive the awards formally during the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Celebration Dinner (January 17, 2020), along with being recognized during the Polynesian Bowl (January 18, 2020) in Oahu, Hawai'i.

Three Ducks named to AP All-American teams

Three Ducks named to AP All-American teams

The Associated Press released its All-America teams on Monday and three Oregon Ducks made the list.

Left tackle Penei Sewell earned AP First-Team All-American, making him the eighth consensus All-American in Oregon football history. Sewell also earned first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and FWAA. The sophomore also became the first player in Oregon history to win the Outland Trophy and just the third Pac-12 player to do so since 1999.

Left guard Shane Lemieux was named to the AP All-American Second Team and right tackle Calvin Throckmorton was named to the AP All-American Third Team. The seniors each made 51 consecutive starts.

Sewell (4), Lemieux (2) and Throckmorton (2) combined to win the Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week award eight times during the regular season. Washington State was the only other team to win the award more than once.

Opposing corners should fear Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell

Opposing corners should fear Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell

Left side, strong side.

Last week, Oregon sophomore Penei Sewell was honored as one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy which is presented to the nation’s best interior lineman on offense or defense. Sewell is named alongside Wisconsin junior center Tyler Biadasz and Auburn senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

This honor comes to Sewell in his sophomore season. The Outland Trophy committee recognized and honored Sewell as a finalist after 18 games played. 

It’s just a blessing. Growing up, I’ve always wanted one of those and to see that I’m a finalist, I want to go harder. -- Penei Sewell

How impressive is it that Sewell, in his second year of collegiate football, is up for this prestigious award? Very. Sewell joins Oregon legend and five-time NFL pro bowler Haloti Ngata (2005) as the only two players in program history be a finalist.

“I think more than anything it’s the accountability and what he’s put on tape. He plays with physicality and is graded out real well. Not a lot of mental errors. The things you’re looking for when you take those accolades,” said offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo.

Here are some of Sewell’s accomplishments as a freshman:

- USA Today Freshman All-American

- The No. 2 offensive lineman in the Pac-12

- The No. 7 tackle in the nation with an 84.0 grade from Pro Football Focus

At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Sewell has been integral in defending quarterback Justin Herbert’s blindside in addition to using his strength and agility to get to the second level of the defense quickly creating space for screens or chunk plays. Imagine being an opposing corner and seeing Sewell with 120+ extra pounds on you charging with a determined and fierce look in his eyes to get you on the ground.

If you’re a corner or something, you should definitely fear him especially in screens because he’s willing to come… I’ve never seen a guy his size be able to move in space like that. It’s really impressive. -- senior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux.

Looming for Sewell and Oregon is the Pac-12 Championship game. If Oregon is to move the ball against the stout Utah Utes defense, Sewell will need to bring his A-game once again.

The Outland Trophy winner will be announced on Thursday, December 12.

Duck seniors leaving Oregon football better than how they found it

Duck seniors leaving Oregon football better than how they found it

THE SCENE

In the middle of a media circle ahead of Oregon’s final conference game against rival Oregon State, Oregon senior linebacker Troy Dye stared at Autzen Stadium and stuttered.

In four years of covering Dye, he’s never stuttered.

Oregon’s leading tackler for the past three seasons exudes leadership, confidence and is always good for a sharp comment or mic-drop moment. However, when asked about running out of the tunnel in green and yellow for the final time in Autzen Stadium, Dye got caught up in the moment.

"No matter how it is, man, I'm going to have fun with it one last time in the big and crazy Autzen Stadium,” Dye paused. “I definitely will shed a tear, there is nowhere around that one… It's crazy how fast the time flies and I'm just enjoying every moment of it."

Since the minute Dye arrived in Eugene, Oregon, he’s disrupted backfields and locked down in coverage, surpassing 100 tackles as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

He’s been the heart and soul of the Duck defense through tumultuous times, including three different head coaches (Mark Helfrich, Willie Taggart, Mario Cristobal), three different defensive coordinators (Brady Hoke, Jim Leavitt, Andy Avalos) and countless scheme changes.

SPECIAL CONNECTION

The senior class and Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal have a special bond and connection. As freshmen in 2016, they played on a team that finished 4-8 and left out of a bowl game. In 2017, Cristobal joined the coaching staff and brought discipline with him. Later that season, more than 70 Duck players signed a petition to UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens, lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program when former coach Taggart departed for Florida State. Oregon’s current seniors, and a few juniors, are the only remaining players who signed that petition.

For that, Cristobal is deeply thankful.

THE LEGACY

Dye will shed a tear on an expected cold Saturday afternoon in Autzen Stadium and so will senior left guard Shane Lemieux. Lemieux has started 49 consecutive games, earning two Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week honors and first team midseason All-American by the Associated Press this season.

He will play in the 2020 Senior Bowl along with Dye. Lemieux says the senior class has achieved their ultimate goal: leaving the Oregon football program better than they found it.

“It’s bittersweet. I know I will probably cry when I walk out there because I love this program so much and I put so much work into this. The seniors have been through so much,” Lemieux said. “The love I have for these coaches and guys like Penei (Sewell) that I probably will never play with again, until, maybe, down the road hopefully… I feel like this program is headed in the right direction.”

PASS OF THE TORCH

Sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell stands close by answering questions about being named one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy. Sewell joins Oregon legend and five-time NFL pro bowler Haloti Ngata (2005) as the only two players in program history be a finalist for the trophy awarded annually to the nation's best college interior lineman on offense or defense.
Sewell smiles as he locks eyes with his teammate, Lemieux, who he credits as a mentor who helped him adjust to college football.

“Wooooooo, (the seniors) are my brothers, man,” Sewell said. “My man right there, Shane Lemieux! He’s always taken me under his wing and I’m going to miss him, for real. I’m going to make the most of (the games remaining). I’m going to make the most of it.”

HERBERT’S FINAL WISH

At Pac-12 Media Day in July, ahead of the 2019 football season, Washington State Coach Mike Leach made a comment about quarterback Justin Herbert.

“Seems like Herbert has been there forever,” said Leach of the four-year starter. “Somehow they granted him 10 years of eligibility.”

While it may feel like 10 years to coaches who’ve had to game plan for Herbert’s elite arm and sneaky fast wheels, Herbert’s time as a Duck is coming to a close.

Oregon is one win away from its first 10-win season since 2014 with a chance to be crowed Pac-12 Champions. Now that the national title is out of the picture, Herbert said, “It means everything,” to learn from the ASU loss and refocus on finishing the season strong.

“We are coming up on the end of our senior year and playing football here has been the best four years of my life,” Herbert said. “I’d do anything to have a couple more games. I know we are going to do everything we can this week to get better, learn from it and do our best to get ready for Oregon State.”

HATS OFF

Oregon will honor 26 seniors this Saturday, including: Herbert, Dye, Lemieux, linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr., offensive lineman Jake Hanson, offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton, offensive lineman Dallas Warmack, wide receiver Juwan Johnson, tight end Ryan Bay, defensive tackle Drayton Carlberg, linebacker Bryson Young and punter Blake Maimone. Plus tight end Jacob Breeland and defensive end Gus Cumberlander, who both suffered season ending injuries.

Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo joined Oregon’s staff after the losing 2016 season. He’s seen how the instability and tumultuous Oregon careers has bonded the special class that stuck it out for the opportunity to turn around the Duck football program.

“Resilient. Tough. Educated in the game off and on the field,” Arroyo said. “Some of the things that have happened off the field, working through different schemes and coaches, my hat is off to this group of guys. They are phenomenal and a resilient group that is passionate about Oregon football.”

Ahead of the meaningful Civil War rivalry with Oregon State, the senior Ducks will have a moment with their families- families of blood, teammates and their chosen Duck football family.

So what do you say fans of Autzen Stadium, a farewell and hats off to the seniors who persevered to leave Oregon a better place than when they arrived?

A once-in-a-decade player ignites Oregon's run game

A once-in-a-decade player ignites Oregon's run game

Oregon’s 37-35 drama filled win snapped the Ducks’ four-game losing streak to the Cougars in front of a sellout 59,361 crowd at Autzen Stadium, the tenth highest attended game in history. When freshman kicker Camden Lewis nailed a 26-yard field goal as time expired, the Duck student section flowed over the fences to celebrate with the team that lifted up Lewis.

Meanwhile, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal found running back CJ Verdell to give him a congratulatory hug after the sophomore’s career night that will likely shoot him to the top as the Pac-12 Conference’s leading rusher. His 257 rushing yards ranks tied for fourth most all-time in school history and the most by a Duck in Autzen Stadium history.

There is something eerily similar between Oregon’s comeback victory vs. Washington in Seattle and its gutsy last minute triumph over Washington State at home.

The big plays to the left side.

If Verdell sparked the Ducks’ (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) offense against Washington State, then left tackle Penei Sewell was the ignition.

Last week against Washington, running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio ran for a career-high 81 yards, all of which came in the second half, and credited Sewell for insane blocking.

Habibi-Likio and his girlfriend thanked Sewell by having him over for a home cooked meal of baked mac-n-cheese and chicken.

This week, Verdell had the hot hand and became the Pac-12 running back with the most yards in a conference game. A stunning highlight came in the first quarter: Oregon’s offensive line blew open a huge hole, wide receiver Juwan Johnson pancaked two defenders and Verdell cut, sprinting untouched to the end zone for a career-high 89-yard touchdown. The crowd lost control at the play that felt very vintage Oregon offense.

What’s it like for Verdell to run behind Sewell?

"Who was it that parted the Red Sea? Moses?” Verdell said. “Yeah, when Moses parted the Red Sea, that's how I would describe it."

Following Verdell’s three-touchdown and career-high 257 rushing yards plus 56 receiving yards on four receptions, the running back plans to also take care of lineman Sewell, but in his own way.

“Me and Penei are pretty much brothers,” Verdell said. “He pretty much lives with me. If he wants a home cooked meal then it ain't nothing. I'll make him some ramen noodles or something."

Sewell, the highest-graded offensive lineman in the country by Pro Football Focus, has had major honors roll in this season, earning Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week three times already.

He leads the team with 32 knockdowns and Oregon has a 13-2 record with Sewell as starter. Sometimes, Sewell almost out runs the running back. It’s easy to get lost watching his play during an offensive drive, he’s that impressive.

Oregon senior center Jake Hanson beams with pride when asked about Sewell.

"Penei is a guy that comes along in a program once every decade or couple decades honestly. He's that good,” said Hanson. “And on top of his natural talent he works very hard, he's passionate about the game, he's everything that you would want in a teammate… I love having him as my left tackle."

The win over WSU was another step forward towards Oregon’s first Pac-12 Title since 2014. The Ducks have more challenges ahead, starting with a trip to Los Angeles to play Pac-12 South foe, USC next Saturday. However, with a unique once-in-a-decade player like Sewell, the 2019 season is also beginning to feel very special.

Numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies

Numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies

No. 12 Oregon is flying into Seattle, WA on a five game winning streak to face rival No. 25 Washington. The Ducks (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the Pac-12 North Division, while the Huskies (5-2, 2-2) are in the hunt to stay in the mix for the division title. It’s the 112th meeting between the Northwest foes and a ranked pivotal division matchup.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

BETTING LINE

Oregon is a road favorite. The Ducks opened as 3.5-point favorites against the Huskies. The line has since moved to 2.5-points. The over/under is 55 total points.

FIVE-GAME DUCK DOMINANCE

Oregon has outscored its last five opponents 195-25. The Ducks have scored 27 touchdowns while giving up just one touchdown. UO has held all five opponents to under 10 points, the first time they’ve done so since 1958.

RED ZONE STOPS

Opponents haven't scored a touchdown against Oregon in nine red zone trips. On the season, the Ducks have only allowed two touchdowns of opponents’ 14 red zone trips, a rate of 14.3 percent that leads the nation.

FAST WASHINGTON STARTS

Through seven games, UW has outscored opponents 90-6 in the first quarter.

HUSKIES STOUT PUNT GAME

Washington is 13th in the nation in net punting (42.78 yards). The Huskies have allowed only one touchback and seven punt return yards this season.

HISTORY

In games played in Seattle, the Huskies are 32-21-4 vs. Oregon. In games played in Eugene, the Ducks hold the edge over UW, 18-13. Oregon has won 18 of the last 24 games against Washington, including last season’s 30-27 overtime win in Eugene.

PENEI SEWELL, BLIND SIDE BODYGUARD

Oregon sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell has been racking up the honors this season. Sewell has been named to Pro Football Focus’ National Team of the Week three times, received Outland Trophy's Offensive Lineman of the Month award in September and earned Pac-12 honors four times. His PFF running grade (94.1) leads the nation and has only committed one penalty in 846 career snaps. Oregon is 11-2 in two seasons with the 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman starting.

BIG REDD

Junior wide receiver Jaylon Redd has scored a receiving touchdown in five consecutive games, tied for the longest streak in the nation and the first Duck to do so since Josh Huff (2013).  Against Colorado, he scored a rushing and receiving touchdown for first time in his career and the first Duck wide receiver to do so since Bralon Addison (2015).

TO DYE FOR

Senior linebacker Troy Dye left the Colorado game with an injury but is cleared to play at Washington. Saturday will be his 40th consecutive start. His career statistics are among the best in the nation: 3rd in tackles, 4th in solo tackles, 7th in tackles/per game and 11th in tackles per loss/game.

A WIN WOULD...

Improve Oregon to 4-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 and become the first Pac-12 team since Stanford in 2017 to start 4-0 in conference play.

BONUS: Good and bad injury updates

[READ: How Oregon's offense changes without Jacob Breeland]

Oregon vs. Nevada: 10 numbers to know

Oregon vs. Nevada: 10 numbers to know

No. 16 Oregon hosts Nevada in its home opener for the 2019 season. The Ducks (0-1) look to bounce back and get their first win after a last-minute defeat to No. 10 Auburn. Can UO stop a hangover loss or will the Ducks allow the Tigers to beat them twice?

Nevada (1-0) has nothing to lose, everything to gain and intense momentum coming into Autzen Stadium. The Wolf Pack mounted a stunning comeback win over Purdue on Friday night. Oregon can still win the Pac-12 North and contend for a conference title but the Ducks need to bounce back sooner rather than later.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

1. INJURY UPDATES

Two Ducks will miss the entire 2019 football season: Sophomore linebacker Adrian Jackson and true freshman wide receiver J.R. Waters both suffered season ending foot injuries.

The loss of Waters is another hit to Oregon’s wide receiving corps. The Ducks are coping with injuries to Brenden Schooler (right foot)Mycah Pittman (shoulder) and most recently Juwan Johnson, who is day-to-day with a foot injury.

Tight end Cam McCormick is also day-to-day.

2. VEGAS, BABY

Oregon is a three-touchdown home favorite over Nevada. The Ducks opened as 21.5 point favorites over the Wolf Pack, currently the Ducks are 23 point favorites. The over-under is 62 total points.

3. SEWELL VS. SEWELL

Ducks starting left tackle Penei Sewell graded out as the third-best offensive lineman and second best tackle in the Pac-12 in week one according to Pro Football Focus. The sophomore has not committed a penalty in 521 snaps in his career.

Against Nevada, Penei Sewell will face a new challenge: his brother, senior linebacker Gabriel Sewell. Gabriel Sewell led the Nevada defense in 2018 with 92 total tackles and is on watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Polynesian Player of the Year.

"I'm sure when that number is called and he has to block him, and Gabe has to take on a block, they're not going to play patty cake," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.

4. POSITION MOVES

As a result of the depleted wide receiving unit, Oregon has switched up its week two depth chart.

-Redshirt freshman Spencer Webb has been moved from tight end to wide receiver.

According to Cristobal, Webb’s role will be “expanded.” With Juwan Johnson out, the 6-foot-6 246-pound Webb was the large target that Herbert desperately needed against Auburn, scoring his first career touchdown -- an impressive 20-yard grab over the back of a defensive back.

-Sophomore Daewood Davis has been moved from cornerback to wide receiver.

As a redshirt freshman, Davis played receiver in seven games and had a 13-yard reception against San Jose State. He moved from wide receiver to cornerback after the season.

5. RED HOT DYE

In his 34th consecutive start, Dye recorded a game-high 15 tackles against Auburn. After a stellar 115-tackle junior season, Dye needs 106 tackles in 2019 to become Oregon’s all-time leader.

Currently, Dye leads all active Power 5 players with 328 career tackles and has 18 games with 10 or more tackles.

6. STREAKING HERBERT

Herbert has a streak of 29 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest in the country. He has led Oregon to an average of 37.7 points per game over his 29 career starts, and ranks sixth among active FBS leaders in passing touchdowns (64) and eighth in passing yards (7,312).

7. HISTORY

Oregon is 6-1 all-time against Nevada, winning the last six straight. The last matchup was in 2011 when Darron Thomas matched a school record with six touchdown passes and the 13th-ranked Ducks dominated Nevada, 69-20. Last time Nevada beat Oregon was in 1947.

8. HOME OPENER DOMINANCE

Oregon owns a 14-game win streak in home openers heading into Saturday's showdown with Nevada. The streak has been fueled by an offense that has averaged 57.1 points per game over that span, outscoring their opponents by an 800-285 margin.

Also, a win would extend Oregon’s streak of consecutive wins over non-conference opponents at home to 24 that dates back to 2008.

9. THE AVALOS FACTOR

Oregon’s X-Factor in preparing for Nevada’s offense may be new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. Avalos spent the last seven seasons at Boise State, were he gained lots of experienced facing the Wolf Pack.

10. ANOTHER FRESHMAN QB1

After facing Auburn freshman Bo Nix in his first college start, the Ducks will face another freshman quarterback in Nevada’s Carson Strong. Strong is the first Wolf Pack starting freshman since 1998.

Strong earned the starting nod midway through fall camp and had a debut. In Nevada’s win over Purdue, Strong completed 30- of-51 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, including commanding a game-tying and game-winning drive in a come-from-behind victory.

MORE DUCKS:

Mario Cristobal's ear-catching comments about Jevon Holland

Oregon Ducks fall five spots in Top 25 after loss to Auburn

5 changes to Oregon's week two depth chart, following the loss to Auburn

Ducks started and ended their playoff run on the same night

 

Dropped passes problem: Oregon football noticing a difference from the inside

Dropped passes problem: Oregon football noticing a difference from the inside

Remember when penalties plagued Oregon football in 2017? Last season, the Ducks successfully improved from the most undisciplined and heavily penalized team in the country to fourth the Pac-12 Conference in penalty yards. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal corrected UO’s bad habits to dramatically improve from the FBS-worst 88.31 penalty yards per game to 47.92 penalty yards in 2018.

What a turn around.

The Ducks must do it again. It’s no secret that next on the fix list is Oregon’s dropped passes problem. The receiving corps dropped 52 passes in the 2018 season. That’s a major hindrance when trying to make the most of Heisman-hopeful quarterback Justin Herbert’s final season at UO. Drives and potential scoring opportunities cannot be halted due to drops if Oregon wants to improve on its 9-4 record. 

The good news is the rectification process is already paying dividends.

New wide receivers coach Jevon Bouknight made a strong statement right away; focusing on one of the most old-school and effective drills, the Jugs machine. Graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, tight end Cam McCormick and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo all indicated the countless reps have had a large influence on the receivers.

Johnson, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver with an advantage in size and experience, has seen a change even since he’s arrived a few months ago.

“There has definitely been a change in dropped passes,” Johnson said. “The difference is that now the guys have confidence. (Coach Bouknight) is all about the details, his middle name is details.”

Cristobal stated the passing game inefficiency did not stem from a lack of work ethic, rather a lack of confidence and attention to detail. Bouknight has established precise discipline in aligning perfectly before each play and nailing the details of each route.

Oregon fans noticed the zero dropped passes from the wide receivers in the UO spring game, while teammates are seeing a difference from the inside.

“Receivers are making incredible catches,” offensive lineman Penei Sewell said. “Watching them improve every day has been incredible. Whatever Coach Bouknight is doing, he needs to keep doing, he’s doing something right.”

The addition of Johnson and a strong freshman class has created a unit of competition where everyone is trying to fill the vacancy for Oregon’s next top receiver; Reliability is of the utmost importance.

“(The receivers) did a good job in spring, a really good job in summer, you can tell by the way they are coming into camp,” Arroyo said. “With the added group and added depth, every day is an opportunity to win a job, take a job or keep a job. “

The opportunity for playing time is plentiful but there is no time to waste; A date with Auburn football looms on August 31.