Hamani Stevens has been around the block. The redshirt senior adopted a serious role in the Oregon rotation his sophomore year as a guard, then junior year he immediately became a starter. Since the first game of his junior year, Stevens hasn’t missed anything more than one half of a game of action, and is slowly becoming one of the most stable offensive lineman for Oregon alongside Hroniss Grasu. Stevens anchors the left side of the line, helping to protect Marcus Mariota‘s blind side.
Stevens takes enormous pride in his line’s work, so you can imagine that when his line was under fire after allowing 12 sacks in consecutive games against Washington State and Arizona, Stevens looked within to fix this problem. Since the Arizona game, the offensive line has allowed a total of four sacks in a four-game span, three of which came against one of the best pass-rushing teams in the nation — Washington.
Today I got a chance to talk to Stevens at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex in an interview for FishDuck.com. I asked Stevens what contributed to this enormous turn around that his line has performed. He said, ”After those games we kind of sat down as an offensive line and we talked about what happened.” Clearly, talking wasn’t the only solution, but Stevens reiterated, “A lot of mature guys and a lot of veteran guys helped coach our younger guys and helped us get better as a unit.” He mentioned that the return of Jake Fisher, the senior stud, helped a lot, too.
I also asked Stevens what scared him most about a 6-2 Utah team that is statistically better than Stanford in almost every category except points allowed per game. Stevens said, ”They got a solid defense. Their defense is what’s gave them a good record.” He went on to say, ”It’s honestly going to be on us, especially as an offensive line. We’ve just got to open up those holes and give Marcus time to throw the ball.”
Stevens is exactly right, because even though Utah is a formidable defense that plays in an offensively challenging conference, the Ducks have a lot more to worry about than just the defense. Devontae Booker, starting running back for Utah, is one of the best in the entire conference. Their kicker, Andy Phillips, is one of the best in the biz. Essentially, Oregon has to be able to move the ball because the Utes will put points on the board if the Ducks give them the chance. This is a big test for the Ducks in Salt Lake City, with Colorado and Oregon State remaining after that. (And they are going through their trials) If Oregon wins on Saturday, these Ducks have a good shot to earn their way to the first College Football Playoff.
Top photo by Kevin Cline