Shane Lemieux

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.

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?

Historically, quarterback Justin Herbert plays extremely well vs. ASU

Historically, quarterback Justin Herbert plays extremely well vs. ASU

Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) has secured a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game as the North Division champion and is in the running as a College Football Playoff contender. The Ducks have two conference games left and Arizona State (5-5, 2-5) is the next opponent they must beat. 

The Ducks look to stay unbeaten in conference play as they head to Tempe… Here are 10 numbers you need to know about the 4:30 p.m. kickoff at Sun Devil Stadium.

ON A HERBERT HIGH

Coming off a season-high 333 passing yards vs. Arizona, quarterback Justin Herbert is displaying incredible accuracy. He’s completed 70 percent of his passes in three-straight games, connecting on 62-of-84 (73.8) over that stretch. Herbert has historically played well against ASU. In his career against the Sun Devils, Herbert is 69-of-111 for 1,032 yards, nine TDs and two interceptions. His career-best 489 passing yards came as a freshman vs. ASU in 2016.

CAN YOU SAY CLUTCH?

The Ducks have outscored their opponents 56-20 in the second half on the road. Oregon is also 25-for-41 (.610) on third down conversions in the last three games.

SINGLE DIGITS

Oregon has held six opponents under 10 points, which leads the nation and is a program best since 1960.

SPREADING THE LOVE

Oregon has 19 players who have scored a touchdown and 19 players who have at least a half-sack, both of which lead the nation.

CRISTO-BALLIN!

A win would make Mario Cristobal the fourth head coach in program history to win 10 games in a season. 

KEEPING UP WITH THE JOHNSONS

Johnny Johnson III is coming off a four-catch performance vs. Arizona, including a 73-yard catch, the longest of his career and longest by a Duck in 2019. Juwan Johnson’s potential is also being realized, totaling 16 receptions, 263 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games. He led Oregon with five catches, one touchdown and 93 yards vs. Arizona.

THIBODEAUX TRAIN, FULL STEAM AHEAD

Freshman defensive tackle Kayvon Thibodeaux has 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in the last two games. He’s coming off a season-high three tackle for loss performance against Arizona. The highest rated recruit in program history, Thibodeaux ranks 4th among all freshman nationally in sacks(5.5).

STRONG SHANE

For the second time this season, Oregon left guard Shane Lemieux was named Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week. Against Arizona, Lemieux was the highest-graded (80.4) guard in the Pac-12 and third nationally. He has not allowed a hit, hurry or pressure on Herbert over 67 snaps and leads the Ducks with a season-high seven knockdowns.

DEVILS COME UP SHORT IN CORVALLIS

A failed two-point conversion proved to be the difference in Arizona’s almost-comeback win at Oregon State. ASU rallied from two touchdowns down late in the game but the Beavers beat the Sun Devils, 35-34.

ARIZONA STATE VS. THE RUN

ASU has held eight of its last 10 opponents to under 150 total rushing yards (151 vs. Utah, 217 vs. UCLA). Although, the Sun Devils pass defense ranks 115th in the nation.

Oregon Duck x-factor Isaac Slade-Matautia is emulating Marcus Mariota

Oregon Duck x-factor Isaac Slade-Matautia is emulating Marcus Mariota

A lot has happened in a year for Oregon inside linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia. He experienced his first live college football game, broke his collarbone to halt his strong freshman season, rehabbed and added almost 20 pounds.

Now, the healthy and respected MIKE linebacker is majorly contributing and the front-runner to start alongside senior Troy Dye. Slade-Matautia could be Oregon’s x-factor, yet he’s flying relatively under the radar… And he likes it that way.

A former four-star prospect and a top two player from the state of Hawaii, Slade-Matautia attended St. Louis High School, the same school quarterback Marcus Mariota attended. The two have clear similarities in their soft-spoken nature and intense work ethic; Slade-Matautia emulates the Heisman Trophy winner and aims to follow in Mariota’s footsteps.

“I talk to his brother (Matt Mariota) a lot,” Slade-Matautia said. “I ask his brother, ‘What did Marcus Mariota do when he was in college? Did he go out? Did he have social media?’ The answers are no… I want to do what he did and hopefully get the same result.”

[READ: Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary]

No Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or burner accounts for 6-foot-1 235-pound linebacker, just like Mariota. The sophomore stays in, studies film, arrives early to practice, leads by example and demands the most from his teammates in a positive way. He’s earned the respect from his teammates by his calm command of the defense. Oregon senior offensive lineman Shane Lemiuex picked Slade-Matautia as ‘Best in Fall Camp’.

“He’s quiet but has become a very vocal guy on the defense and a great pass rusher,” Lemieux said. “He’s not afraid to come down the A-gap and smack someone.”

With Kaulana Apelu’s departure, the starting role is Slade-Matautia’s to take. Lack of size was a slight on Slade-Matautia last season. Not only does he feel more comfortable at 235 pounds, it’ll help with the adjustment for more reps and he has been able to maintain his speed.

His accountability helps the Ducks trust him to make the calls on the field, set the front and get the coverage correct.

“I think he runs the defense really well, he has good control, guys trust him,” Dye said. “We all buy into backing him and believing in him… I know he’s going to have a breakout year this year.”

In Oregon’s latest scrimmage, Slade-Matautia made an impressive interception that displayed his knack for running to the ball and showcasing his strong hands.

“It was a man-to-man coverage. The ball came my way and I was there to jump the route,” Slade-Matautia said. “Knowing everything I was able to overcome, being injured and all that, getting that pick helped other players be confident in my plays.”

Slot wide receiver Jaylon Redd said he’s always aware of the physical presence of Slade-Matautia has in practice.

“You always gotta keep your eye on him,” Redd said. “He might catch you slipping a little bit. He’s focused, a quiet guy. He knows what he is doing.”

Last season, Slade-Matautia saw action in seven games before missing the last six games due to injury. He made 20 tackles, including 13 solo and two for loss.

Fair warning for Pac-12 offenses, it is Slade-Matautia's season and he’s looking to take advantage of slip-ups.

Talkin' with the Ducks: Tough road schedule is "doable"

Talkin' with the Ducks: Tough road schedule is "doable"

Welcome into a new running NBC Sports Northwest feature: Talkin’ with the Ducks. Joining us on the second edition is the top-ranked guard in the Pac-12 Conference, senior Shane Lemieux.

[WATCH Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock"]

Lemieux, who has started 38 straight games at left guard, is experiencing a lot of "lasts" as a Duck. In the video above, he says, “Nothing in my life has been as cool as an experience as running out into Autzen Stadium.”

[WATCH: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary]

Lemieux is looking forward to a tough road schedule and has circled the Auburn game in Texas and traveling to play at USC. 

Talkin' with the Ducks: Emphasis on tight ends in Oregon's system

Talkin' with the Ducks: Emphasis on tight ends in Oregon's system

Welcome into a new running NBC Sports Northwest feature; Talkin’ with the Ducks. Joining us on the second edition is the top-ranked guard in the Pac-12 Conference, senior Shane Lemieux.

[WATCH Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock"]

Lemieux, who has started 38 straight games at left guard, has been impressed with the increased role of Oregon's tight ends in blocking schemes. In the video above, he picks Justin Herbert and CJ Verdell as the biggest threats on the Duck offense this season. 

[WATCH: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary]

Talkin' with the Ducks: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary

Talkin' with the Ducks: Oregon's offensive line dinners are legendary

Welcome into a new running NBC Sports Northwest feature; Talkin’ with the Ducks. Joining us on the second edition is the top-ranked guard in the Pac-12 Conference, senior Shane Lemieux. The video above is part one, where we dive into Lemieux's perspective on quarterback Justin Herbert. 

[WATCH: Juwan Johnson and Justin Herbert's intensifying connection]

Oregon's 2019 offensive line has been pegged to be one of the best, if not THE best, in the nation. Lemieux,  who has started 38 straight games at left guard, says Ducks fans should expect a "nastier, tougher more versatile”  line this season.

Something you may not know about the position group is that they have a dinner together every week. These "O-Line Dinners" have become legendary in Eugene and buffets won't allow them in. 

[WATCH Talkin' with the Ducks: Justin Herbert more than a "quiet guy who can sling the rock"]

Oregon football "hasn't had someone like" wide receiver Juwan Johnson in awhile

Oregon football "hasn't had someone like" wide receiver Juwan Johnson in awhile

When asked about graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson, his new Oregon Duck teammates can’t help but smile.

Senior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux named Johnson the scariest big play threat for next season. “He’s a big guy, who has caught some really good balls with a big body… We haven’t had someone like that in awhile.”

6-foot-4, 230-pound Johnson is stepping into a prime opportunity at Oregon and he’s already climbing the depth chart. He could be the answer to the biggest question of the 2019 football season: How can the Ducks get the most out of quarterback Justin Herbert in his final season at UO?

After arriving from Penn State, Johnson has made a strong first impression on the Ducks. His large, powerful, physical frame is unlike the other receivers currently on Oregon’s roster along with his ability to power through and over defensive backs.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo’s first thought when seeing Johnson in pads at Oregon? “Wow, he was as big as I remember, bigger even in pads.”

“The thing about Juwan is how engaged he’s been,” Arroyo, who is already planning to have Johnson play multiple positions, said. “He didn’t come out as a guy who’s played a ton – which he has, he’s played a lot, he’s been in a big-time program and been in big-time games – he’s been very humble and his work ethic and the way he’s been, come early and stay late, that’s really good to see. I think that’s good for our young guys to see too.”

After only four practices, Johnson went from being a new roster addition to working with the first-team offense. During Thursday’s practice, Johnson replaced Johnny Johnson III (unknown injury) in a two receiver, two tight end package alongside wide receiver Brenden Schooler and tight ends Ryan Bay and Cam McCormick.

You may have just learned Johnson’s name this month but he has been on coach Mario Cristobal’s radar since Cristobal's coaching stint at Alabama. As Johnson grew up in in Glassboro, New Jersey, his childhood dream was to play for Oregon. From across the country he was in awe the Oregon brand, LaMichael James, Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas. Huff is his favorite Duck receiver, Johnson followed Huff’s career when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons.

“My mom, at the time, was like, ‘No, that’s too far,’” Johnson said when discussing a possible future at Oregon. “Now I’m sort of a man on my own and paving my way, writing my own story. So I came out here and wanted to live out my childhood dream and play for Oregon.”

The newcomer is studying the Oregon playbook and putting work into connecting with quarterback Justin Herbert, on and off the field. The two Ducks bonded over an ‘Oheroes’ volunteer event last week, where they coached middle-schoolers.

“It’s exciting,” Johnson said of catching passes from Herbert. “He sees the field. He knows what he’s doing… We are building a relationship. I’m trying to feel him out and he’s trying to feel me out.”

Herbert is already on 2019 Heisman Trophy watch lists and, with Dillon Mitchell’s NFL departure, needs someone reliable to throw to. Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s receivers in 2018, something new wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight will be tasked with fixing.

[READ: First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now]

Johnson is coming off a season that was plagued with his own dropped passes, something he owned up to when asked about. Bouknight has implemented a new tactic to eliminate bad habits: when a player drops a ball, they also have to drop and do 10 pushups.

Johnson’s size isn’t his only asset. He brings needed experience to the position: playing in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran wide receiver, Schooler (21 games). He’s proved he can put up big numbers and play in big games; in 2017, he caught 54 passes for 701 yards and averaged 13 yards per reception. His spectacular sophomore season included a game-winning touchdown catch on fourth down as time expired at Iowa.

Johnson’s 81 receptions over his three seasons include 57 that resulted in a first down (70 percent).

"I’m here to be a leader," he said. "That’s my job here, come in and bring a leader and bring that energy to the team. I want to bring the guys up so we can win a Pac-12 championship, national championship and those sort of things."
Five Ducks on the roster have the last name Johnson, and as Juwan says, he’s still searching for his Oregon identity and nickname. Come August, could the fresh face become an Oregon household name? Will he separate himself from the other playmakers? The fight for playing time is on.

Wrinkles coming for a more reliable running game at Oregon

Wrinkles coming for a more reliable running game at Oregon

Eugene is buzzing with hooting and hollering Ducks anxious for the 2019 football season. Coach Mario Cristobal walked out of Oregon’s first spring football practice with a smile you could see across the snow spotted Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.

“You missed a heck of a time in there,” Cristobal said as he walked up to the media scrum. “It got pretty competitive… It was good to see that kind of juice, energy and crossover enthusiasm. Guys from the defense would go to the offensive guys and say ‘that was a tremendous play but I’m coming after you next play.’”

Entering into his second full season as head coach, Cristobal knows that Oregon’s running game must improve and plans to start making changes this spring.

Last season, the Ducks inability to run the ball was apparent. Oregon rushed for only 37 yards on 1.4 per carry in the Red Box Bowl versus Michigan State.  Granted, MSU had the top rushing defense in the nation, but the Spartans were allowing 76 per game, not 37.

Oregon struggled on the ground in its transition to a physical, between-the-tackles style, finishing the season with the 191 rushing yards per game, the least amount for this program since 2006.

The good news? The Ducks return the entire starting offensive line and both leading rushers in CJ Verdell and Travis Dye.

The better news? Cristobal has a rushing attack plan that will be implemented this spring. His plan begins with strengthening blocking schemes and fundamentals and putting an emphasis on the tight ends. Cristobal is also adding new concepts to the run game this spring: the shotgun, pistol and under center, which he believes will “add a wrinkle” to the offense.

Cristobal will be executing his hard-pounding vision with a weapon in his back pocket, or rather, up front; The Ducks boast one of the most veteran offensive lines in the country, entering 2019 with 153 career starts.

Which is a dream come true for the former Miami Hurricanes offensive lineman and Alabama line coach.

“You spend sometimes an entire career trying to get to this moment where you have a group of guys that have played so many snaps together they know what each other are thinking,” Cristobal said.

Cristobal explained that he believes if seniors Shane Lemiuex and Jake Hanson were on opposite sides of the complex, they could telepathically tell what the other one wanted for lunch. They’ve spent so much time together that they could tell by the way the other is walking if they were going to get an omelet or not.

Whether it’s reading minds or reading a defense, Oregon’s success in 2019 is undoubtedly linked to its desperate need of a reliable run game.

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

No jokes. No frills. No gloves…?

Picture a 1970s or 80s running back, maybe at Green Bay in the snow; a workhorse scraping and crawling for yards on the ground.

According to junior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, that’s what true freshman Travis Dye is like.

Dye is the younger brother of Oregon’s star linebacker junior Troy Dye, but he jokes around a lot less than his “class clown” brother.

"Travis is an example of you go your career coaching and you'll have a few true freshmen that right away are mature enough to handle that pressure," offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. "I think him having grown up with Troy a little bit and his upbringing, they've done a really nice job… I think his maturity has showed.”

Dye enrolled early in January and has become Oregon’s No. 2 running back, behind CJ Verdell. However, this Saturday on senior day at Autzen Stadium, the 18-year-old may be asked to shoulder a bigger load due to the Ducks’ depleted depth chart.

Verdell’s and Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s status is unclear, after suffering a neck sprain and quad contusion at Utah, respectfully.

At Utah, Dye had the longest run of 18 yards and finished leading the team with 66 yards on nine carries. The best game of his excellent freshman season came at California; leading the Ducks’ rushing attack with 18 carries for 115 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown.

Among Pac-12 freshmen, Dye ranks in rushing yards (417) and rushing yards per game (41.7). Adding to his 83 carries and two rushing touchdowns, he also has 10 completions for 73 yards and one touchdown.

UO quarterback Justin Herbert complimented Dye on his route running and pass blocking. Dye has also impressed Lemieux.

“(Travis has) a mental capacity almost like a redshirt junior or senior would have,” said Lemieux. “He understands the ins and outs of defensive scheme, pass protections, where to hit the holes and how to be patient behind the blocks.”

Another major strength for Dye is his shiftiness and ability to run hard without hesitation. At 5-foot-10, 200-pounds, Dye has worked hard this season on breaking tackles and making defenders miss.

“I can’t get tackled by one guy,” Dye said.

This Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Dye will face a surging Sun Devils (6-4, 4-3) team that is looking for their fourth straight win to keep their Pac-12 South division title dreams alive.

Arroyo’s game plan is to pound the rock against an Arizona’s rushing defense that ranks 56th in the nation and allows an average of 153 rushing yards per game. In their last three losses (Washington State, Arizona and Utah), the Ducks have averaged just 86.3 yards per game.

If Troy is most likely to be Oregon’s class clown, what is Travis most likely to do?

“Score a touchdown,” Travis said.

With two conference games remaining, the Ducks (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) are counting on it.