For years, the success of Oregon’s offense has depended much on the running game, relying on the fast and furious feet of the likes of LeGarrette Blount and LaMichael James. However, one cannot understate how vital the offensive line is to not only the rushing attack, but the entire offense.
The offensive line provides the opportunities for running backs to break into the open field: they pull, they trap block, and they open up holes large enough for a sumo wrestler to get through. They are also very vital in creating a pocket for the quarterback to say in while looking for an open target, and keep the defense from breathing down his neck. Without an exceptional offensive line, there is no way for an offense to excel at the Division-I level of college football.
Last season’s offensive line was a prime example of this. Oregon boasted the top rushing attack in the nation, averaging 299.2 yards a game. Their leading rusher, LaMichael James, who averaged just over 150 yards a game, was the second-leading rusher in the nation. The Ducks’ offense was third overall last year, averaging 522.8 yards a game. What stands out even more concerning last season was the Ducks’ offensive line while passing: they gave up just .86 sacks per game, good enough to rank eighth in the nation.
Oregon’s starting offensive line last year boasted 2 seniors, 2 juniors, and a freshman at center. Although the Ducks lost Mark Asper and Darrion Weems, who combined for 60 starts and 88 total games played in their career, the offensive line looks to remain as strong as ever.
Starting center Hroniss Grasu will return for his sophomore year, a 6’3″, 291 lb redshirt that started and played an impressive 14 of 14 games last year. Carson York will return for his senior year at the position of left guard, boasting a 6’5″, 292-lb frame. York started all 14 games with the Ducks last year and has played a career total of 40 games. The last returning starter comes Nick Cody at the right tackle position. Cody, a 6’5″ 301-lb player, will rely on his experience of starting the entire previous season and a total of 34 games played in his career.
The only positions left to fill will most likely fall to last year’s backups. Ryan Clanton will fill in for Weems at the left tackle position, returning for a senior year in which he will add on to his career total of 10 games played. Clanton is a 6’5″, 300-lb transfer from the junior college of Centennial who joined the Ducks during last season. Filling in for Mark Asper at the right guard position will probably be Everett Benyard III, a 6’7″ 325-lb incoming junior. Benyard III played 12 games last year and has played in a total of 13 during his career.
There are a total of 14 players on the Ducks squad on the offensive line, only one of them an incoming freshman. This freshman, Kyle Long, is the none other than the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer, Howie Long, who played defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders for 13 seasons. Howie is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports alongside Terry Bradshaw. His son, Kyle, is a 6’7″, 297-lb diverse athlete. Kyle was originally a pitcher for Florida State, but lost his chance and had to attend Saddleback College. At this junior college, Kyle played on the offensive line for only one year and decided to attempt a jump to FBS football. Kyle will attempt to make a huge impact with Oregon before possibly moving on to the NFL, where his brother Chris Long plays as a defensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams.
The future looks bright for the Oregon offense as their offensive line is once again loaded with talent that will open up the running attack, this time led by Kenjon Barner. Look for Oregon’s rushing attack to continue to put up big numbers through the upcoming season, and most likely for many years to come.