In 2018, the NCAA proposed that redshirted players could participate in up to four games in a season without burning up a year of collegiate athletic eligibility. This was a fantastic rule change in the eyes of many coaches, as it allowed for more flexibility on rosters, as well as for players, who could test playing at another level of their respective sport for the first time without wasting an entire season of eligibility.
As sports get only more and more competitive, naturally the fight for playing time does as well. When a player commits to joining a nationally recognized football program, he is literally taking the sport to another level, and time to develop in order to be able to compete is often necessary. Often these players already have very solid foundations, and the main issue that separates them from the bench and the field has to do with size and weight. Newly graduated Duck and freshly signed New Orleans Saint Calvin Throckmorton didn’t see playing time until his second year with the program, but he eventually became an essential figure in the offensive line as an upperclassman.
Players like this make me excited. Isaac Townsend is exactly that kind of player. Townsend is a 6’5, 265 pound outside linebacker from Arvada, Colorado. The 3-star big man was the No. 2 overall ranked player in Colorado upon recruitment, and he finished up his senior high school season at Ralston Valley HS with 51 tackles, 11 for loss, and three sacks. He played basketball in high schools well, and chose Oregon over other notable programs such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Washington State.
Townsend didn’t see any playing time last fall. This can be especially daunting as a freshman, especially when the rules allow you the opportunity to play without affecting eligibility. A major contributing factor to this is that Townsend only weighed 235 pounds upon signing, which is a bit undersized in comparison to the Duck’s 2019 offensive line which averaged a weight of around 315 pounds. He was simply not at the same level physically as his competition. Since then, he has put on almost 35 pounds, likely the result of hard work, quality coaching, and college meal plans. Townsend was on the list of the top five largest weight gains on the Duck’s roster in 2019.
In an article by James Crepea published on Oregon Live, Townsend commented on the growth he’s achieved:
“It was kind of tough to not play but after helping my offensive teammates, giving them looks on the field, I think I learned a lot about myself as a person and developed as a man so I was able to take it into this year. I was trying to get power and strength behind me as long as it was good weight so I could still move. I think some of that is I’m getting older so it’s easier to put on more weight but that was also what I was trying to do and I’m happy it’s happening.
Townsend has all the makings of a fantastic linesman. He’s a great height for the position, and he’s gained a lot of weight quickly. He has the length and frame to be a real asset on both offensive and defensive lines, and with a year on the sideline it’s safe to say that tactically he’s been paying attention. Townsend is very quick off of his feet. This makes him a fantastic rusher who can often get a quick first step ahead of his competitors. This is very valuable as it will allow him to penetrate the backfield and lay waste to opponents in his way. You can see the voraciousness in Townsend’s playstyle.
Overall, Townsend is a very promising player who has all the tools that he needs to be great. With that first year under his belt, he is not only mentally equipped, but is more physically prepared than ever. I think that we could see Townsend playing on the third team next season, but I still believe that he has a bit further to develop physically. Hopefully, this next season really allows for him to grow into the impact player that I am confident Townsend can become.
Top photo by Tom Corno
Zeke Lerner-Wood is a freshman at the University of Oregon from Alameda, California. Growing up in the Bay, Zeke follows the A’s, Raiders, and Warriors and since starting classes at the University, Zeke has been introduced to the world of NCAA football and has become an avid fan.
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