May 12, 2016
By Rob Moseley
Photo: Eric Evans
A look back at Oregon’s month of practices that culminated in the Spring Game on April 30.
Where things stood: The Ducks lost the center and left side of a line that helped them finish fifth nationally in rushing last season, at 279.92 yards per game, but also allowed three sacks per game. Graduate transfer Matt Hegarty solidified things at center after Hroniss Grasu’s graduation, while tackle Tyler Johnstone and guard Matt Pierson held down the left side. The Ducks entered the offseason with two rocks in tackle Tyrell Crosby – who would move to the left side, replacing Johnstone – and guard Cameron Hunt, and a bunch of other guys looking to take the next step in their careers. Veterans Jake Pisarcik, Doug Brenner and Evan Voeller were experienced backups positioned to win the open jobs, but only by holding off a class of redshirt freshmen who showed significant potential in practice last fall.
What happened in April: Youth was served. Not only did Jake Hanson step into the vacated center spot, as expected, but classmates Shane Lemieux and Calvin Throckmorton spent much of spring with the first unit, as well. Hanson was the heir apparent to Hegarty all along – a frustrating element during the QB-center exchange problems in the Alamo Bowl – but Throckmorton stepped up this spring, and Lemieux was a really pleasant surprise. He’s still somewhat raw, but Lemieux is an absolute mauler at guard, a weight-room junky who can match up physically with most anybody.
Of the veterans, Brenner was in the most prominent role by the end of spring, at a guard spot. Pisarcik practiced all over the line, including at center, making him a valuable chip for his versatility, while Voeller missed some practice time in the middle of the month that set him back. Hunt’s participation was limited as well, hampering his anticipated move to tackle. Yet another redshirt freshman, Zach Okun, showed significant progress in the consistency of his snaps, potentially allaying concerns about depth at center.
Who to watch in August: How much did the redshirt freshmen truly progress this winter, and how much was position coach Steve Greatwood trying to motivate his veterans by playing them behind young guys? Probably a little of both. No doubt, the junior class enters the summer motivated to get stronger and hone their technique, in order to edge out the up-and-comers in preseason camp. But by the same token, the redshirt freshmen look ready to contribute soon, and possibly even this fall. The new wrinkle will be another graduate transfer, Zac Morgan, a tackle who signed with Oregon from Dayton. Where does he fit? Hunt can certainly move outside to right tackle, but he’s got a home at guard and Morgan has a lot of experience at tackle.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
LT: Tyrell Crosby, Jr.; Evan Voeller, Jr.; Brady Aiello, RFr.
LG: Jake Pisarcik, Jr.; Shane Lemieux, RFr.; Davis Miyashiro-Saipaia, So.; Samuel Poutasi, Fr.
C: Jake Hanson, RFr.; Zach Okun, RFr.
RG: Cameron Hunt, Sr.; Doug Brenner, Jr.; Mike Miller, RFr.; Jacob Capra, Fr.
RT: Zac Morgan, Sr.; Calvin Throckmorton, RFr.; Logan Bathke, Fr.