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Insider

Oregon patiently develops OL talent

7/31/2012
Oregon sophomore center Hroniss Grasu (middle) is an example of the Oregon coaches recruiting a specific player to great profit. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When it comes to comparing Oregon to other elite college football programs, one thing that stands out is the talent development.

It has been debated at length, but regardless of what is argued, Oregon’s success comes through finding the correct players to play a specific system. Certain players fit the Ducks' system and some don't.

Nowhere is that more apparent than on the offensive line.

Offensive line coach Steve Greatwood has been at Oregon for nearly three decades. His ability to adapt to new systems and coach up the players he recruits has played a major role in the Ducks' success.

The Ducks have led the Pac-10/12 in rushing every season, dating to 2007 and have finished no worse than No. 7 nationally in that time frame.

There has been no Jake Long, Orlando Pace or Matt Kalil to anchor Oregon’s line, but there have been plenty of hard-working, undervalued recruits that went to Oregon and became productive offensive linemen.

Adam Snyder, Fenuki Tupou, Darrion Weems, Geoff Schwartz, Max Unger, Mark Lewis and Mark Asper have all gone on to NFL careers during the past decade after learning from Greatwood. Of those players, only Weems was a four-star recruit out of high school. Tupou came in as a junior college transfer.

Higher-rated recruits have begun to make their way to Eugene in recent years, but selling offensive linemen is still tough for the Ducks, as the fast pace and the zone blocking scheme are not for every lineman.

The Ducks have landed high school All-Americans such as Nick Rowland and Andre Yruretagoyena in the past couple of years,

but the Ducks failed to grab any of the top linemen out West in 2012 – perhaps the best recruiting year ever for linemen on the West Coast.

Isaac Seumalo, Joshua Garnett, Erik Magnuson, Zach Banner, Kyle Murphy, Andrus Peat, Jordan Simmons, Cedrick Poutasi, Max Tuerk, and Freddie

Tagaloa
all showed interest in the Ducks before deciding to head to more traditional systems.

While the Ducks whiffed on a star-studded class, the Oregon coaches never panicked despite hoping to bring in three linemen in the class. The Ducks don’t stretch on players that don’t fit their system, especially on the offensive line.

Athletic big men with a high motor and higher fitness level are the primary targets for the staff.

Hroniss Grasu started and Jake Fisher played extensively in 2011 after coming into Oregon as 'the other' linemen in their respective classes. Grasu played basketball in high school and Fisher played tight end. Grasu is on the Rimington Award Watch List and Fisher looks to have a leg up on a starting spot heading into fall.

There might not be the big-name recruits that other schools can flaunt, but Oregon’s system clearly works. It may be Chip Kelly's system, Steve Greatwood's coaching or a combination of many factors. Whatever it is, it has been proven that in order to shut Oregon down, an opponent had better have a defensive line loaded with NFL talent.

With three returning starters and a solid group of talented reserves paving the way for the dynamic Oregon offense, more of the same should expected in 2012.