It is no secret that the Ducks had offensive line problems last season. Many believe that the Ducks remained among the elite following their loss to Arizona only because the committee took into account missing pieces, most notably Jake Fisher. With Fisher now graduated along with staple center Hroniss Grasu, the offensive line, like so many other pieces of this team, is rebuilding. However, thanks to redshirt senior Tyler Johnstone that process is starting from more than scratch.
Austin Chad Willhoft of FishDuck.com was at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex yesterday to speak with Johnstone about his recovery and the upcoming season.
After tearing his ACL in the Alamo Bowl against Texas in 2013 and then re-tearing it last spring, Johnstone is back healthier than ever and fully expects to be out there for Game 1 against Eastern Washington. “When fall gets here I’ll have a full year [of rehab] and I’m feeling really good,” he told us. “It’s feeling super stable, I just need to get the leg strength back.”
In addition to getting strength back in his legs, Johnstone took advantage of his rehab time to put on weight and set up a tight nutrition schedule. “The injury helped me a lot,” he explained, “it helped me slow down a bit and knock out an eating schedule, it helped me grow up a little bit and take better care of myself.” Along with eating well, Johnstone has put on nearly 30 pounds of muscle and is aiming to start the season in the 300-pound bracket.
The offensive line may be rebuilding but many of the key components already have experience with this kind of pressure. Stetzon Bair and Matt Pierson join Johnstone as the only other redshirt seniors on the line.
Doug Brenner had his chance to prove his worth last year when Grasu was injured against Utah and performed well in Grasu’s absence.
Johnstone, however, is still being looked to as the leader of the line and has embraced the role whole heartedly, “I’ve definitely adopted the leader role,” said Johnstone. “I learned a lot from guys who are gone now, especially Fisher and Grasu.”
As happy as Duck fans are that he is healthy and ready to lead a new offensive line protecting a new quarterback, no one is more excited than Johnstone. He told us his biggest struggle sitting on the side was his inability to get involved and help out his team. “It feels really good to be healthy and playing. It’s tough to watch and if there’s ever a point when [the team] is struggling with something, you feel like you should have been in there helping out.”
New faces are strewn throughout the depth chart, but it is the familiar ones that are set to ensure the Ducks continuing dominance of the Pac-12.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck