Remember the glory days of Max Unger or Hroniss Grasu (both now in the NFL) pulling from their center position and actually leading the running back on the edge? The speed and athleticism they had was not only amazing, but ideal for the Oregon Spread Offense under coach Chip Kelly as the Ducks unleashed a scoring assault on the country.
To snap the ball and pull and be out in front of LaMichael James or Royce Freeman is a specialized skill that is rare in college football. It required a player-profile that was faster and more agile than the typical offensive lineman. This new player-profile had to be conditioned as well to implement the dreaded No-Huddle offense that the Ducks became nationally famous for.
The success of the entire offensive line during the past eleven years under former coach Steve Greatwood is well known; a decade of leading the Pac-12 in rushing, along with a No. 2 ranking last season starting four redshirt freshmen O-linemen. It has been a most impressive track record built on recruiting a player-profile that fit the offense perfectly.
But the fast, agile offensive lineman profile is now out with coach Mario Cristobal, who is recruiting to fit the new offense installed by new head coach Willie Taggart. We heard comments in the early months of the Taggart era referring to Duck linemen as being weak, and not big enough. Holy crap. The kind of success Oregon has had running the ball–better than USC, Washington, and Stanford over the past decade–and the Ducks were weak?
This made me and the coaches of FishDuck.com look at the South Florida offense and begin to understand the Bulls’ running plays, and the kind of offensive linemen they needed to run those plays that put USF in the top-five nationally in scoring. What should we as fans be looking for, and what is the player-profile of the offensive lineman in the Power-Spread offense that coaches Taggart and Cristobal are installing?
First we have a verbal commitment to sign a letter of intent this February from Chris Randazzo, a 6’7, 325 pounds rising high school senior–obviously quite a different profile from the past regime. But what are the other offensive lineman offers out there?
- Emil Ekiyor, 6’2″ 322 pounds.
- Anthony McKinney, 6’8″ 330 pounds.
- Darrell Simpson, 6’7″ 336 pounds.
- M.J. Ale, 6’7″ 340 pounds.
- Jamarre Salyer, 6’7″ 342 pounds.
- Trey Hill, 6’3″ 346 pounds.
Word has it that Taggart has offered an offensive lineman (a center) from his roots in Bradenton, Florida, who is 6’4′ and 345 pounds (Chris Dunlap)! This is not a center-profile that will be out leading the Sweep Read near the boundary in front of the running back. Let’s see an example of this new offensive lineman player-profile in action….
Above we see an example of the combo play that is a staple of the Taggart offense where you see a Jet Sweep going to the right, and a Counter Trey going to the left. You see the right offensive guard pulling to his left (blue arrow above). The center (red arrow above) is not pulling, but simply blocking down, or blocking to the right to help replace the departure of the guard from that spot. These offensive linemen are not running very far…
You can see how the running back (No. 2 above) has a clear lane to a touchdown against Florida State last year, set up by a green wall of blockers on both sides. Note how they are not position blocking, or simply shielding a defender from the play, but they are pulverizing their opponent.
I could watch this slow-motion video (above) all day. The center is not pulling in this offense and the offensive linemen are not meant to be leading the attack to the edge. Rather, they are pulling to blast defenders in the box and create movement. You will see a tackle pull as well at times, but again, not very far. The objective is to blast the box and let the running back go to work in the open field with his one-on-one moves.
It is a different offense necessitating a different offensive lineman profile, hence it may take a few years for Coach Willie Taggart to have Oregon positioned (in terms of personnel) as he would like. The good news is that he is attracting top caliber offensive linemen nationally who want to join the Ducks and implement the blast the box strategy of the new offensive line.
“Oh how we love to learn about our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Top Photo by John Giustina
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