Courtney: How Much Will Oregon’s OL Grow in 2021?

The fifth in a series of the prevailing storylines at each position group for the Ducks

Posted on April 11, 2021

Chris Courtney
  By Chris Courtney of WFOD for SportsPac12

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.

Oregon offensive lineman Alex Forsyth |  Sports Illustrated

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 SewellShane LemieuxJake HansonDallas WarmackCalvin 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.

Jones

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.

Oregon offensive lineman Ryan Walk | Oregon Athletics

George MooreT.J. BassAlex ForsythRyan 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.

Dawson JaramilloLogan SagapoluJonathan DenisMarcus Harper, and Kingsley Suamataia each appear poised to push the veterans in front of them in order to secure playing time of their own.

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

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 MillerJackson Powers-JohnsonFaaope LalouluBram 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.

This story also appears at wholeflockofducks.com and is syndicated with permission. Follow WFOD on Twitter @_WFOD and Chris Courtney @csquared02.

 




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