York Maybe Out for Saturday, but Johnstone In

Eugene, Ore. - The Oregon Ducks took to the practice field on Monday morning to begin their official preparations for their week one contest against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

While the dominant focus over the weekend was about the announcement of Marcus Mariota as Oregon's starting quarterback, players and coaches alike were mainly concerned on Monday with getting everybody game ready and in game shape.

Another development over the weekend was the release of Oregon's depth chart. Though there were a few surprises, much of the depth conversation revolved around the offensive line. Notably absent from the two-deep was Carson York while Tyler Johnstone made his first week part of the official roster count by securing the spot at left tackle.

As of right now, the starting offensive line for the Ducks is composed of Johnstone at left tackle, Ryan Clanton at left guard, Hroniss Grasu at center, Nick Cody at right guard, and Jake Fisher at right tackle. Duck fans should expect to see these players as well as a few others from the two-deep receive plenty of action on Saturday night.

Offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, now entering his 19th season coaching the offensive line, is preparing his athletes to do just that.

"It's game week," said Greatwood when asked about how preparation changes now that there is an opponent this week. "So, you know, I think the kids are dialed into that fact. We've got to sharpen our spear, so to speak, to prepare for our opponent...techniques have to change somewhat suddenly depending on what our opponents throw at us."

The words of Coach Greatwood were also words that Carson York, who is in his final season with the program, echoed.

"There's a lot more detail with how we handle things, but with our guys, they (the defense) throw so much stuff at us that we've been doing a long time," said York about game preparation. "Now we're going to go into the film room and start looking at stuff and really figure out how we're going to figure out things."

The words about game preparation continued to echo across the players on the offensive line, with returning center Hroniss Grasu also mentioning the Oregon defense.

"We have to be ready for all the defenses," said Grasu about Oregon's preparation. "Even our defense they do a great job. If you got our defense down you can get any defense in the country down."

Implementing Nick Aliotti's complex defensive scheme is clearly benefiting more than just the athletes on the defensive side of the ball.

As mentioned previously, York was one of the players that were surprisingly left off of the first two-deep depth chart released by the Ducks. Though he has come back from his Rose Bowl injury in outstanding fashion, York apparently still has some things to iron out before he is fully game ready.

And with a player like Carson York, the coaches don't want to risk anything.

"He's coming along one day at a time," said Coach Greatwood when asked about York's absence from the depth chart. "He's working hard, and you know, I expect him to be able to contribute. It's just a day to day (situation) with him. I don't want to put him up there if he's not ready to be full go at this point."

York also understands that he must take things slowly in order to benefit the team when they need him most.

"It's doing well," said York when asked about his knee. "It's a process. There's up and downs but I'm confident that it is or it will get to where it needs to be. I've have to keep going forward."

With York out of the picture (at least for another week or so), focus shifts to younger players on the roster, such as Tyler Johnstone, to lead the charge.

"He's worked his behind off," said Grasu of Johnstone. "He's been working really hard. Even last year when he redshirted, I always thought he was one of the smartest newcomers on the team."

Grasu's praises of Johnstone were also echoed by the veteran York.

"Tyler is one of the most relentless guys out there; everything he does he does four hundred percent," York said speaking of Johnstone's work ethic. "This kids going to go out there and give everything he possibly has to exhaustion every single time he goes out there. Tyler is one of the young guys that maybe (who) isn't trying to lead vocally but definitely people see the way he does things and (that) makes him a leader that way."

With a clearly dominant work ethic, Johnstone will hopefully be able to translate his offseason development to in-game success.

"I gained a little bit of weight and I have worked pretty hard in the weight room," said Johnstone about his offseason preparation that led him to being named starter. "What I lack in strength and weight I have to make up in footwork and athletic ability. That's what I try to do the most, move my feet and get in front of guys."

Asked whether he thought he would be named starter, Johnstone indicated he felt he had a good camp.

"Coach (Greatwood) had me running with the ones after a couple of days," recalled Johnstone of fall camp. "It was a little bit of a surprise, but it was a nice surprise."

Looking to keep Johnstone on his toes and performing at a high level will be his backup, Kyle Long, a player coming to the Ducks from junior college and is another big man looking to be the part of a great offensive lineman.

"He's a monster," said Grasu of Long. "When he gets his hands on you, you have no chance to fight back. The way he looks he already looks like an NFL tackle, he's going to be great."

All indications point that the Ducks will be missing York for at least another week, however the offensive line looks as though it will not skip a beat with a bevy of returning players as well as talented newcomers.

The Ducks' offensive line will face their first test when the go head-to-head against Arkansas State on September 1 in Autzen Stadium.


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