Legendary football coach and NFL broadcaster John Madden used to refer to offensive linemen as “the big uglies.” Get behind those big uglies and push the ball downfield!
For the last three seasons Oregon’s bunch of big uglies has been the cog in the Ducks’ offensive production. After Penei Sewell joined the Oregon offensive line to replace Terrell Crosby two seasons ago, the group of starting linemen has stayed pretty consistent.
Last season, Oregon had a successful six-man rotation, with Calvin Throckmorton playing more downs after an injury to Dallas Warmack. Even with Warmack’s injury, the transition was seamless because this tight group of offensive linemen had unbelievable chemistry.
When the Ducks kick off the 2020 season, Sewell will be the lone returner with starting experience on the offensive line, so the offensive line will be a major question mark when the season begins. If you’re looking for a silver lining here, it’s that this won’t be the first time that quarterback Tyler Shough has taken reps with this group, as most of Shough’s reps in practice the past two seasons have been with the second team.
Trying to work his way onto Oregon’s starting line will be redshirt freshman Jonah Tauanu’u.
Out of Harbour City, California, Tauanu’u was a highly sought-after recruit in high school and was a consensus 4-star recruit. Oregon had to compete with many of college football’s big names outside the Pac-12 to land the 63rd-ranked player in the nation. Some notable schools vying for his commitment were LSU, Auburn, Michigan, Florida and Oklahoma.
Listed at 6’5″, 305 pounds, Tauanu’u comes into his second year in a Ducks uniform. College scouts loved his size, but were even more impressed with his agility and his overall strength. He carried these traits throughout his high school career, traits which propelled his Narbonne High School team to two regional championship games.
Tauanu’u also has a laundry list of personal accolades, which include a couple of Los Angeles City player of the year awards, an invitation to the Polynesian Bowl and the LA Times Lineman of the Year award.
From Chris Courtney of Whole Flock of Ducks:
“The film doesn’t lie – Tauanu’u is simply one of the nation’s top offensive tackle prospects.”
- Very athletic for his size: Tauanu’u is a terrific athlete who uses his impressive quickness to neutralize defenders. He’s a prototypical left tackle who is light on his feet, allowing him to excel both as a blindside protector and as a lead blocker. Changes direction very well, allowing him to target and re-target defenders with ease and at multiple levels of a defense.
- Extremely powerful at the point of attack: Once Tauanu’u get his hands on a defender, particularly when he’s moving downhill, he usually makes them look silly. He’s very dominant at the point of attack and ruthlessly effective at finishing blocks.
During his short time at Oregon, Mario Cristobal has had a lot of success recruiting linemen and out-recruiting other big-time schools. Being a former offensive lineman himself, as well as the offensive line coach when he first started at Oregon under Willie Taggart, have a lot to do with that. It’s clear that even with his promotion to head coach he has stuck close with that group.
Tauanu’u is a very talented young lineman, who didn’t get a good shot at live action last fall simply because of the guys he was up against. He was competing for a job that had more than numerous upperclassmen and Sewell standing in his way. It wasn’t a very realistic thought he was going to outdo all those older guys.
But now a lot of those older guys are gone, and Tauanu’u has had a year of practice reps against one of the country’s best defensive lines. With an almost completely new line this year, Cristobal is going to give him every opportunity to compete for a starting job. This may be a battle Oregon fans will want to watch closely; it wouldn’t be surprising if Tauanu’u is on the field for the first offensive possession of the season.
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Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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