Helfrich Explains: A Clockwork Oregon Line

Jordan Ingram FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Jordan Ingram reporting for FishDuck.com from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex Sunday night about the Coach Mark Helfrich press conference.

All season, questions have swirled around Oregon’s offensive line, but with the loss of veteran center senior Hroniss Grasu, growing concerns were cast asunder with yet another tight knit performance from Oregon’s heavyweights. In his press conference, head coach Mark Helfrich spoke to the challenges and resiliency of his offensive front.

Hamani Stevens had a fantastic debut at center for injured senior Hroniss Grassu

Kevin Cline

Hamani Stevens had a fantastic debut at center for injured senior Hroniss Grasu.

“It seems like right now, you kind of just spin the dial and see what comes up week to week,” Helfrich said, regarding the Ducks’ patchwork offensive line. Lately it has been crucial for every individual in that position group to step up and out of their comfort zones. The big men have been swapping positions since fall practices began, calm and prepared for the inevitable, yet always surprising, consequence of injury.”

When asked if he misses any specific qualities of the various players, Helfrich replied, “Maybe, but you have to push forward and push on…and try to fill their shoes as best as possible.”

Doug Brenner was the starting guard alongside Hamani Stevens.

Craig Strobeck

Doug Brenner was the starting guard alongside Hamani Stevens.

With Oregon’s starting center out indefinitely, Hamani Stevens relocated from guard to center in lockstep with Oregon’s game-plan. “Hamani did a great job last week in practice of really setting the tempo for that group, literally of just getting set and pushing the tempo and not missing a beat,” said Helfrich. Stevens proved more than deserving of his start at center, a feat doubly impressive considering that with the exception of practice, he hasn’t snapped for the Ducks since 2008.

Grasu’s expected replacement, redshirt freshman Doug Brenner, had his first career start at left guard and the rotation proved successful. Oregon had running lanes big enough to drive a truck through for true freshman Royce Freeman, who bulldozed for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Despite being sacked twice, Oregon’s Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota gracefully took a bow at Autzen to roaring applause after a rushing touchdown of his own as well as 323 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Andre Yruretagoyena, #72, warms up before the Michigan St. game. Yruretagoyena would leave with an injury before the final whistle.

Kevin Cline

Andre Yruretagoyena, #72, warms up before the Michigan St. game. Yruretagoyena would leave with an injury before the final whistle.

The Ducks also saw the return of Andre Yruretagoyena at right tackle after the redshirt junior missed eight straight games following an injury suffered against Michigan State. Yruretagoyena’s return added much needed depth to this battle-hardened line. “Andre was rusty…but is a guy who will just knock off that rust and reassure himself that, hey, it’s going to be okay,” said Helfrich. Even more comforting are the performances of redshirt freshman Jake Pisarcik and true freshman Tyrell Crosby, who continue to brave the Oregon trenches week after week.

Helfrich seemed optimistic about the overall performance from his offensive line. Next week, the Ducks travel to Reser Stadium for the 118th Civil War and the wheel will spin again, with or without Grasu. But that doesn’t seem as scary anymore.

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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