During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.
We start this week with the offensive line.
Who’s back in 2014: senior Jake Fisher, sophomore Cameron Hunt, redshirt senior Hroniss Grasu, redshirt senior Hamani Stevens, redshirt junior Tyler Johnstone, redshirt freshman Doug Brenner, redshirt freshman Brigham Stoehr, redshirt junior Matt Pierson, redshirt junior Jamal Prater, redshirt sophomore Matthew McFadden, redshirt junior Andre Yruretagoyena, redshirt freshman Elijah George, redshirt freshman Jake Pisarcik, junior Haniteli Lousi, redshirt freshman Evan Voeller, incoming freshman Braden Eggert, incoming freshman Tyrell Crosby
Outlook: The Ducks return five starters on the offensive line. However, it's not just the 2013 line. It’s a bigger and better version of the 2013 Ducks, as the group put on more than 100 pounds of good weight. But that's not the only good thing about this group -- they're also playing with a chip on their shoulders. Grasu said the unit felt as though it let the team down, being outmuscled in critical situations in 2013, and that the O-line wouldn’t let that happen again this season.
This is the year for the Ducks. The offensive line has three players using their final seasons of eligibility. The run game should be very good (and the offensive line is going to make sure of it). Quarterback Marcus Mariota will be gone after this year. It shouldn't matter that no receiver has proven himself as elite yet, because Mariota will make their jobs easier.
With that much talent -- talent that won’t be on the roster again in 2015 -- if the Ducks want a shot at the national title in the very near future, this is it. The offensive line needs to make holes for Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. It needs to protect Mariota and give him time in the pocket. It needs to make sure there’s no repeat of 2013, and it can’t lose focus for a second because if it does, the offense is going to have a much harder time gaining traction.
But if this spring is any indicator, this starting five is on the right track. (Grasu had a few communication issues with his snaps, but expect that to be remedied by September.) The Ducks’ O-line is going to be bigger and better and is hoping that pays dividends for the team -- in the form of conference and national titles.
Other spring position reviews: