Posted on April 11, 2021
With spring practices underway at Oregon, I’m taking the time to examine the prevailing storylines at each position group, while exploring how these questions could impact the Ducks entering the fall.
Today, our Spring Storylines series continues with a look at the offensive line.
A COVID-shortened 2020 season offered everyone a peek at what life for the Oregon offensive line would look like in the immediate post-Penei Sewell, Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson, Dallas Warmack, Calvin Throckmorton, and Brady Aiello.
And if we’re being honest, the results weren’t great.
After paving the way for the Pac-12’s second-best rushing offense in 2019 (174.86 yards/game), that stellar collection of offensive line talent either graduated or made the decision to opt-out of the 2019 season, forcing the Ducks in the span of a disrupted offseason to go from possessing one of the nation’s most experienced offensive line units, to one of the nation’s least experienced groups.
In fact, the Ducks returned just one player, Steven Jones, who had starting experience going into 2020, and that “experience” consisted of all of all one game for Jones, which came as a true freshman in 2018.
In the end, Oregon’s new-look group in the offensive trenches fell well short of the lofty standard established by the group before, as the Ducks finished seventh in the Pac-12 last season in rushing offense (166.71 yards/game) displaying a consistency that ebbed and flowed throughout the year.
Entering 2021, the expectation is for this group to take a considerable leap forward, as Cristobal and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal have not been shy this offseason about praising this unit’s progress and the development of dependable depth as we inch closer and closer to September.
Mirabal himself has stated that the second unit at Oregon could start and win games for a number of other teams within the Pac-12 Conference, which feels like high praise for a group that has even less collegiate experience than last year’s starting five for the Ducks.
George Moore, T.J. Bass, Alex Forsyth, Ryan Walk, and Jones each return this fall, along with Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, who is sidelined this spring as he recovers from an injury suffered late last fall.
That six-man group rotated regularly among the five positions along the offensive line, raising questions as to whether the constant shuffling within the unit was actually beneficial to establishing continuity up front.
The explanation from Mirabal and Cristobal was that all six players deserved playing time, thus the reason for frequent rotations, though Mirabal has stated this spring that the rotational approach you saw last fall isn’t necessarily guaranteed to return in 2021. Growth and development will largely determine whether the six-man rotation returns, is expanded, or there is a more traditional and established starting five.
Of these five projected reserves, Suamataia may be the player Duck fans will want to keep a close eye on, as he has already elevated himself into the second group as Moore’s understudy at left tackle through just a handful of spring practices, per Mirabal.
Rated as the best offensive line prospect to ever sign with Oregon, Suamataia has been oft-compared to Sewell, who prior to Suamataia was rated as the best offensive lineman ever signed by the Ducks. The comparisons don’t stop there, however.
Suamataia is also a close friend of the Sewell family, as he and Oregon star linebacker Noah Sewell were high school teammates in addition to Penei Sewell serving as somewhat of a mentor for Suamataia prior to Suamataia’s arrival in Eugene.
Labeled by Mirabal as a player with clear future first-round potential, just like Sewell, don’t be shocked to see Suamataia assume the starting role protecting the Oregon quarterback’s blindside at some point this fall.
Freshmen Jonah Miller, Jackson Powers-Johnson, Faaope Laloulu, Bram Walden, and Jaylan Jeffers are also on hand this spring to help round out a deep and talented offensive line room that will be expected to take a significant step forward if the Ducks are to defend their title as the two-time reigning Pac-12 Champions.
—Previously in this Spring Storylines Series—
• Who gains the inside track at starting quarterback for Oregon?
• How concerning is Oregon’s lack of health at running back?
• What impact will Oregon’s highly-touted newcomers have at wide receiver?
• Does a leader emerge at tight end for Oregon?
—Recent Chris Courtney Stories—
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon Spring Game
- Courtney: Are People Sleeping on the UO Secondary in 2021?
- Courtney: Is the Linebacking Corp Oregon’s Deepest Group?
- Courtney: Are the Young Duck DL Ready to Take Over?
- Courtney: Does a leader emerge at tight end for Oregon?
- Courtney: How Much Impact Will New Duck Receivers have?
- Courtney: How concerning is Oregon’s health at RB?
- Courtney: Who gains inside track at starting QB for Ducks?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Stephon Johnson?
- Courtney: What are Ducks getting in Trejon Williams?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Tanner Bailey?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Percy Lewis?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Landon Hullaby?
- Courtney: Tyler Shough transfer adds QB intrigue for Ducks
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Avante Dickerson?
- Courtney: What are the Ducks getting in Byron Cardwell?
- Courtney: Ducks follow Familiar Theme with DeRuyter Hire
- Courtney: Postmortem Takeaways from Oregon’s Loss to Iowa State
- Courtney: Burning questions for Oregon entering Fiesta Bowl vs. Iowa State
- Courtney: The Case for (and against) Tyler Shough as Oregon’s Starting QB
- Courtney: Post Mortem Takeaways from Oregon’s Championship Win over USC
- Courtney: Burning questions for Oregon entering Pac-12 Championship vs. USC
- Courtney: Oregon Football Early Signing Day Postmortem
- Courtney: Major Storylines Converge for a Wild week at Oregon
- Courtney: What Christian Burkhalter’s Flip to UCLA Means for Oregon
- Courtney: Postmortem Takeaways from Oregon’s Loss to Cal
- Courtney: How does Jadarrius Perkins’ Decommitment Impact 2021 Duck Class?
- Courtney: Burning Week 5 Questions for Oregon at Cal
- Courtney: How Kyron Ware-Hudson’s Decommitment Impacts Oregon’s 2021 Class
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon’s Loss to OSU
- Courtney: Burning questions for Oregon entering Week 4 at Oregon State
- Courtney: Improvement for Ducks on Defense Hinges on Health of Noah Sewell
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon’s Win over UCLA
- Courtney: Burning Week 3 Questions for Oregon vs. UCLA
- Courtney: Analyzing Unexpected Preseason Role Reversal of UO Offense, Defense
- Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon’s Win over Washington State
- Courtney: Burning Questions for Oregon Entering Week 2 at Washington State
- Tyler Shough’s rate of development critical to Oregon’s success in 2020
- Courtney: Postgame Post Mortem—Takeaways from Oregon’s Win over Stanford
- Courtney: Burning Questions for Oregon Entering Week 1 vs. Stanford
Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon Spring GameA trio of freshmen quarterbacks are vying to push Anthony Brown for potential starting reps - May 1, 2021
Courtney: Are People Sleeping on the UO Secondary in 2021?The eighth in a series of the prevailing storylines at each position group for the Ducks - April 17, 2021
Courtney: Is the Linebacking Corp Oregon’s Deepest Group?The seventh in a series of the prevailing storylines at each position group for the Ducks - April 15, 2021