Welcome to the first of a two part segment.
Now that the Spring game is in the rear-view mirror, what’s the outlook for fall 2013? Even with a strong group of seniors departing, and several moving on to the NFL, Oregon is re-loading. I want to show you what’s in store for the coming season. In this two part article, I will be listing my top 10 players for the 2013 football season. In this segment I will be listing players 6-10. If these players step up to the challenge, Oregon’s goal of a national championship is within reach. There will be some players left off of this list that some may be mad about, keep in mind this is my opinion, and it is based on what Oregon needs not previous player stats.
10. Taylor Hart
Starting out my list in the No. 10 spot is 6″6′ 289 pound Taylor Hart. Hart is the cement that holds the D-line together. A true veteran and a true beast, Hart was a menace to offensive lines last year. Posting 36 tackles and 8 sacks on the season he is paramount to Oregon’s success. He also has great aggression that some of the younger players should try to emulate. If Hart’s production falls, or for some reason he gets hurt, that would be a huge blow to the team. There are some players that could step in, but none with the size, knowledge, and passion that Hart has for the game.
9. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
Ekpre-Olomu is a pivotal part of Oregon’s secondary, and arguably the best. Many draft boards already have him going in the first round if he opts out of his senior season. Ifo was a big contributor during his freshman year, but really had a break out season last year as teams tried to pick on his perceived lack of experience. He finished the season with 63 total tackles, 16 passes broken up, 4 interceptions, and a whopping 6 forced fumbles. His defensive output was one of the best on the team last season and Oregon will need the same out of him this year. Much like Taylor Hart, there are some competent players that could step up if something happens, but Ekpre-Olomu is a one of a kind player that Oregon needs.
8. Hroniss Grasu
Being at the center of an offensive line for a team that loves to run, Grasu is a huge anchor for Oregon. After losing Kenjon Barner, the Ducks will need the experience and power of Grasu more than ever if they hope to keep the running game successful and open up the air attack. The O-line is always more susceptible to injury than any other position group. The Ducks can’t afford to lose someone with as much talent and experience as Grasu. That’s what makes him is number 8 on my list of most important players.
7. Avery Patterson
Patterson is crucial to the depth of Oregon’s secondary. After Jon Boyett opted to forego his senior season for knee surgery, Patterson got the chance to show what he can do, and didn’t disappoint. Some of the great things Patterson did for the team went largely unnoticed by fans. For example, it’s was Patterson’s key block against Colorado that sprung De’Anthony Thomas for a punt return as he flat backed the kicker near the sideline. Patterson finished last season with 44 total tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3 passes broken up. His season was unfortunately cut short as he tore his ACL against Cal. Oregon desperately needs Patterson to continue to heal from his injury and stay healthy this season.
6. Jake Fisher
Jake Fisher is the main component for Oregon’s O-line. Fisher has been getting better and better every snap since he started playing for the Ducks. He is a player that, barring injury, is guaranteed to make it into the NFL. As with Hroniss Grasu, Oregon MUST have great play out of Fisher if they want to keep their run game up to par. You can’t plug just anybody in at the spots around Grasu and Fisher on the line, but having these two makes it much easier to have inexperienced players step up and learn the game.
That wraps up the first 5 of my top 10 most important players for the Ducks this season. What do you think so far – any guesses on who might be in the top 5? I can guarantee that I have left one player off the list that will likely make some people angry. Check in on my next segment to find out who made the top five, because there will be some surprises!