Before writing off the Ducks this season, it is important to take a closer look at the facts.
Last year the Ducks rotated nine players in and out of the lineup. While the one constant on the field, Max Unger, is now playing up I-5 for the Seahawks, the Ducks do return four players with significant game experience.
Anchoring the 2009 Ducks offensive line will be C.E. Kaiser. The 6'4'', 290 pound junior is the lone returning starter from last year's unit. While Kaiser lined up last season mostly at guard, he will enter fall camp at right tackle this season.
Starting out at right guard this season will be Mark Asper. The 6'7'', 323
pound sophomore played in seven games last season for the Ducks, including
starting at right tackle for the Holiday Bowl game versus
Asper originally signed with the Ducks in 2007, but delayed enrollment to serve an LDS mission. After dusting off the cobwebs from not practicing or playing for a couple of years, Asper came on strong, inserting his way into the rotation.
A four-game starter and another key member of the rotation last season
for the Ducks, is Jordan Holmes. Holmes was originally slotted to start at
guard, but when Hamani Stevens decided last winter to put his career on hold to
serve an LDS mission,
Holmes, a 6'5'', 285 pound junior, brings the athleticism necessary to play the position for the Ducks, where centers are required to pull and lead the way on their bread-and-butter play--the read-option. Holmes ability to block in space will be crucial in order for the Duck running backs to once again turning five yard runs into long touchdowns.
Entering fall camp at left guard is another member of the heralded 2007 recruiting class, Carson York (6'5'', 285). The redshirt freshman was a four-star recruit and coming out of high school was one of six Duck recruits to play in that seasons Rivals.com Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, which was televised on ESPNU.
Protecting Jeremiah Masoli's backside this season at left tackle this season will be another key member of last years rotation, Bo Thran. Thran a 6'5'', 295 pound junior, played in all thirteen games last season, and is versatile enough to play all offensive line positions for the Ducks.
While Asper, Holmes, and Kaiser are all virtual locks to start somewhere on the line this season, there will be some fierce competition at all positions this fall.
Two of the most intriguing prospects for this season are Nick Cody (6'5'', 270 lbs) and NaDerris Ward (6'5'', 266 lbs). Cody was a key O-line recruit for the 2008 season and earned the respect of coaches and teammates last year on the scout team. Cody could start at either tackle or guard this year for the Ducks.
NaDerris Ward was a top-100 recruit in 2006 at tight end for the
Due to the fact that Ed Dickson and Malachi Lewis have a lock on the playing time at tight end, the coaches moved Ward to O-line this spring to give him a better shot to get on the field this season. Ward, with his combination of speed, athleticism, and blocking ability could thrive at guard this year for the Ducks.
Three non-scholarship players also figure to challenge for playing time this season--sophomore Ramsen Golpashin (6'6'', 280 lbs), junior Max Forer (6'4'', 271 lbs), and redshirt-freshman Cody Gates (6'4'', 299 lbs). Golpashin has game experience, appearing in three games last season for the Ducks.
Oregon signed four offensive linemen last season: Jamal Burrell (6'4'', 265 lbs), Everett Benyard (6'6'', 323 lbs), Karrington Armstrong (6'2'', 285 lbs), and Trevor Fox (6'4'', 295 lbs). While all four are expected to redshirt, they will be given the chance to compete, so don't be surprised if one of the newcomers is the backup center this season.
The most important person returning this year is offensive line coach,
Steve Greatwood. He has done a marvelous job as the o-line coach the
last three seasons at
Because of his presence, Duck fans have high expectations for this season. As well as coaching the O-line, Greatwood will be the running-game coordinator for 2009.
In order for the Ducks to come close to matching their 280 yards-per-game rushing from 2008, they will rely on the magic of Chip Kelly and Steve Greatwood once again.
But don't tell them, they expect to run for more yards this season.