The Green Wall: Oregon’s New Offensive Line

David Marsh Editorials 43 Comments

This is not the year we envisioned for Oregon’s offensive line. We all expected to have Penei Sewell anchor the left side this fall. However, the pandemic robbed us of the opportunity to watch Sewell dominate the line of scrimmage for one final season as a Duck, as he instead prepares for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Sewell’s opt-out dramatically changed the look of the offensive line going from replacing four starters to a complete position group overhaul, which normally wouldn’t be too big of a difference as most of the line has to learn how to play together anyway, but Sewell was the best offensive lineman in the country last year. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see this year’s offensive line take a step back.

That hasn’t happened.

This offensive line still has a long way to go before they become a truly elite offensive line, but they are off to a great start. This is Mario Cristobal’s offensive line, built in Cristobal’s vision for what he wants Oregon to look and feel like. This line is bigger and stronger than any previous offensive line we have seen at Oregon before.

Up to this point, Cristobal has been working with an offensive line he inherited from Mark Helfrich, with the exceptions of Sewell and Dallas Warmack. This year’s offensive line is the first year at Oregon where Cristobal had a say in the recruitment of every player along the line and it shows.

Tom Corno

Verdell runs through an opening created by Oregon’s offensive line.

Oregon is currently cycling through six linemen of starting quality. Of these six potential starters, with an average height of six feet and four inches and an average weight of 318 pounds. This is a human wall and over the course of a game this wall wears down its attackers.

Washington State came out hot against Oregon and put a lot of pressure on the offensive line and did record a single sack. However, that sack was less the offensive line’s fault and more Tyler Shough’s fault for running into the line when he chose to keep the ball rather than hand it off or throw it.

One of the biggest problems for a new offensive line is penalties. False starts and holding penalties are setbacks that stem from a lack of discipline and technique. Oregon’s offensive line had one holding penalty against Stanford, which was declined, and one false start on special teams right before a field goal attempt.

Eugene Johnson

Junior offensive tackle T.J. Bass pass sets against the Cougars 

In week two, the offensive line improved with only one penalty against Washington State and it came during a two-point conversion attempt.

This offensive line isn’t hurting the Oregon offense. Quite the opposite, as Oregon currently has an eye-popping 73% conversion rate on third-downs, and is two-for-two on fourth down. Furthermore, Oregon’s run game is averaging a staggering 7.1 yards per carry and 269 yards per game. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and the running backs deserve some of the credit as well. However, the offensive linemen are creating the holes needed to run the football.

Before the season the offensive line was a position of apprehension and fear. Though after two games the offensive line looks like a strength for this young Oregon team. So far my pre-season fears have gone away concerning the Ducks’ offensive line production, have yours?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: Bob Hubner

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30Duck

Wilner can use whatever data he wants for his Power Rankings, but I question his thought process:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/11/18/pac-12-bowl-projections-cfp-prospects-remote-so-champion-heads-to-the-fiesta-bowl/

Fiesta Bowl
Team: USC (2-0)
Comment: The Pac-12’s path to the playoff is extraordinarily narrow, leaving its champion for either the Fiesta or Peach bowls (the Rose Bowl is a semifinal). As of now, we’re sticking with USC, our preseason pick.
Alamo Bowl
Team: Oregon (2-0)
Comment: The Ducks struggled in the first half of both games and sizzled in the second. They faced a backup quarterback in one and a rookie quarterback in the other. We need to see a bit more before elevating them to projected champ.

As he said, Wilner had USC #1 to start the season, and he’s staying with it. But he says he needs to see more from Oregon? So far, as this article states, he’s seen the best O line in the conference, Shough, and the team had a rough start @ WSU, but Shough ended up with 4 TD’s and 1 INT. It’s hard enough to win on the road, the Ducks battled back and more than covered the spread.

Aside from being his pre-season fave, what has USC shown? So far, they’ve shown at best, total disinterest in playing until the last 3 minutes of their two games, and been the recipient of lucky bounces in those minutes to get the W’s.

Fight On!

DuckUp

I usually like Wilners takes but this just sounds like “Click Bait” SC is as David said a very Hot Mess indeed.

30Duck

Yes, that’s the disheartening aspect of it. I held Wilner in higher esteem than this suggests. Pre-season predictions are, “click bait” by definition. But he holds on to his pick of USC over Oregon, with discordant logic.

Jon Joseph

Wilner believes that USC barely winning at home vs ASU is superior to Oregon winning on the road at WSU.

What more does he need to see from SC? The Trojans is 2-0 and not 0-2 because of incredible good fortune.

silverflurry

Oregon fans should root for SC, the worst 2-0 team in the country, until the conference championship.

30Duck

This opens up 5 p.m. PT window on ESPNU for Oregon-UCLA. Possibly.
Quote Tweet

Navy Athletics

@NavyAthletics
· 1h
Saturday’s @NavyFB game at USF has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases with USF and the ensuing contact tracing of student-athletes.

Last edited 5 days ago by Charles Fischer
Jon Joseph

According to CBS Sports. UCLA/Oregon game will be kick off at 1 PM Eastern time!

10 AM kick off? This can’t be right.

30Duck

Yep, that’s not right. It looks like Oregon & UCLA being switched to Saturday is the problem. Most of the scheduled game times & channels are already filled. 10 AM on CBSsports is full with Georgia Southern @ ARMY from 9:30 to 12:30, UCLA @ Oregon could come on right after that, in place of a repeat of PBR Bull Riding: World Finals.

Jon Joseph

Thanks 30, I figured this info was bogus.

30Duck

YES! https://www.oregonlive.com/ducks/2020/11/oregon-ducks-to-kick-off-against-ucla-bruins-in-midday.html

Oregon Ducks to kick off against UCLA Bruins in midday. No. 11 Oregon’s return to Autzen Stadium to host UCLA will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

Last edited 5 days ago by 30Duck
Annie

Yay! Thanks for posting!

Haywarduck

I think the most important observation you made is that these are Mario Cristobal’s guys. What we are seeing is the level of performance Cristobal expects from the position groups.

It is startling that these guys with so little game experience perform so well. What we are seeing is tough, smart, team players. This would seem to be the formula he is fostering.

Another item which stood out to me when Cristobal talked about Travis Dye’s fumble. He completely backed him up verbally and you could see he also supported him on the field. Dye kept getting the ball as his effort was there. Cristobal has each players back and they are running through walls for him.

The future looks bright as Cristobal’s talent level of player takes over. We see this on the O-line. We also see every player giving it his all. This is the culture he is creating with every player, exciting times!

Charles Fischer

Startling to you, and stunning to me; you never have we seen such production out of a completely new offensive line and I’ve never witnessed this in my life. Very, very unique….

Jon Joseph

Great take David, thanks.

Playing guys a coach recruited does make a difference. And I think Joe Moorhead’s system of O is lifting all boats on the O side of the ball.

Still can’t get over how much bigger and more athletic these guys are than the 230 lb ‘big man’ O tackles 50 years back.

30Duck

https://twitter.com/wilnerhotline/status/1329109614298796032

(RT) Breaking: #Pac12 set to reverse course and allow non-conference games. ADs in agreement but one step remains: https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/11/18/potential-for-healthy-teams-to-be-left-home-alone-forces-pac-12-to-rethink-ban-on-non-conference-games/

However, the change requires approval from the presidents and chancellors, who had previously banned non-conference games for the 2020 season.
The presidents discussed the issue on Tuesday, sources said, but it is not known whether a vote was taken.
The ability to play non-conference games would help fill vacancies if an odd number of teams are healthy enough to compete in a given week.

Jon Joseph

These games would only be played in replacement of canceled games?

BYU has at least 2 open weeks coming up.

I know ASU/CU has been called off this weekend. Any other conference games canceled as of today?

30Duck

So far, that’s it, and dependent on the Presidents @ Chancellors. Ohio State has already had a game canceled, say one of Oregon’s future opponents can’t play, Buckeyes @ Ducks, just like it was supposed to be?

Jon Joseph

Would Ohio State risk this? Without another cancellation, if the Buckeyes run the table it is in the PO.

And I can’t imagine Ohio State wanting to road trip all the way to Eugene.

Also, I don’t think the B1G has approved any games outside of the conference. Nebraska was not allowed to play the OOC game it tried to schedule to replace a COVID canceled conference game.

BYU might be willing to play? BYU needs a P5 game. If the Ducks could get the win over BYU and go 6-0 in conference with a title maybe the final 4 for the Ducks would be a possibility?

If Oregon goes 7-0 with the title, I think BYU might be the Fiesta Bowl opponent?

Of course, who knows how many of these bowl games will be played.

Take care of business whenever the game kicks off. I know that CAL had all kinds of practice issues coming into its game with UCLA. But that’s the best I’ve seen the Bruins play since Chip took over.

30Duck

There’s the rub. it wouldn’t make any sense competitively for Ohio State to to do it, and yeah, the problem with playing an OOC game is finding a team to play. Would Oregon want to play a quality team on the road?

Last edited 5 days ago by 30Duck
Jon Sousa

David, you mention the running backs. Are they on a different level this year or what? Yards after contact have exploded as they refuse to go down… all with the SAME running backs coach.

Makes me think that Moorhead had something to do with it. He watched every snap from last year. He had to see what we saw, and more.

Charles Fischer

I am in complete agreement with David, and in the morning Eugene paper….it was reported that the Oregon offense was No. 1 in the nation for rushing yards per attempt, and is No. 1 for third down conversions.

That is ALL Moorhead, IMHO. The way he pops a play out never seen on a third down play? It was what I dream of from an OC….

And note that the big third-down conversion play used versus Stanford, the Speed Double-Option out of the Pistol was not seen against WSU! He pulled out new plays and will have that one in his back-pocket, and who knows when he’ll use it again?

Jon Sousa

An interesting note on the third down conversions: In the first game the Ducks went 9/11 a stratosphere, nose bleed kind of number. In the second game they were 7/11… but with 2/2 fourth down conversions, the end result is the same = 9 times out of 11 third downs a first down was converted… eventually.

UtahDuck

With the exception of LT I think Oregon has made an upgrade at every single position on the line. At center Forsyth is about as consistent tackling in both run blocking and pass protection as Hansen ever was. the main difference is his snapping. i know it is limited snaps but we haven’t had a single bad snap to my recollection while hansen consistently put it in the dirt and over the qb.

I think Lemieux did a really good job at LG but he had years to get to that level. Bass at LG has had about 3 months.

RG Sala, has played both RG and tackle, and at both positions he has done phenomenal. his ability to pancake, and get push on defenders is fantastic. our run blocking scheme often has him getting to the second level which is fun to watch. I prefer to watch him at this position vs tackle because I think the difference between Sala and walk at guard is greater than the difference of moore and sala at tackle.(I hope that makes sense)

RT George moore and Sala. Moore is playing sound football, he doesn’t have the pancakes that sala has or the fall down’s that jones is recording but I hardly see him losing his reps when he is on the field.

Our Tackle play is at an elite level right now. Bass improved significantly from game one to game two. Forsyth is a good center and while I may have been harsh on Walk, it isn’t because he isn’t good. he probably has the best fundamentals of all the other starting players but being 2-3 inches shorter than them doesn’t give him the same reach so he often loses to some of the de’s with long reach.

Charles Fischer

I agree with you; there is more blocking skill with Sala and Moore, than Walk and Sala…..and I claim them to be the best right side in the US!

Glen Park

I’ll take consistency over speed any day (at least with snapping). I hated seeing snaps fly over Herbert’s head last year, mostly because it happened more than once over the course of the season.

Charles Fischer

THAT is a great observation and explanation–higher level stuff David and THANKS.

Jon Joseph

Thanks you Utah and David for the informative take and response.

Gizmoduck

Coach Mirabal deserves a lot of credit here. I don’t want to take anything at all away from coach Cristobal. He’s a head coach.
He has to keep his eyes on the big picture. Coach Mirabal is the day to day O-line coach. The players and other coaches respect his knowledge and it shows on the field.

Jon Sousa

Agree… but, does MC still coach the tackles?

Santa Rosa Duck

This is indeed a pleasant surprise. Thank you David, I always enjoy your contributions.

jrw

I was a doubting Thomas about the O-line prior to the season, and I would still urge a few more games before celebrating. But, man these guys have been good so far, in all areas of performance. The lack of penalties is amazing. And, the 3rd down conversion rate is spectacular. It all speaks to the players and the coaches really having it together.

Jon Joseph

Penalties? Compare Willie’s team with Mario’s disciplined teams.

Compare to an SC team that had 11 penalties last Saturday for over 100 yards.

Brent Pennington

Oregon has a long history of serviceable to great “O” lines. There is no doubt that Mirabal and Cristobal raised the bar for talent, training, and execution by the OL. A striking difference from the past is depth and versatility. There were years when a man or two down along the OL spelled disaster. And. in big games the OL showed fatigue in the 4th quarter from exertion and playing too many snaps. The Ducks have size, talent and depth. They are now poised to go the distance. The players can be deployed in multiple positions to defeat the opposition. Happy days are here again with the happiest yet to come thanks to the OL.

Quackanadian

Aumavae-Laulu, Malaesala. The highlight reel some dude put together on Twitter is ridiculous. And Jones? Also has a reel stating “who likes pancakes?”.

I remember when last years O line were the 2016 starters. They DID NOT look as big, as strong, as cohesive, and as dominant – not even Lemieux or Crosby – than these dudes do.

“SEC” West Coast was Mario’s vision, and it shows.

Jon Joseph

Just add syrup and it’s a sweet joke.

DuckUp

It must be syrup because butter don’t drizzle like that. -Gronk. If you haven’t heard that sound bite yet look it up. Lol

30Duck

As goes the O line, as goes the team. The best QB, RB, WR, can’t get anything done if the OL gets them sacked, doesn’t open the holes, doesn’t allow time to run their routes. So far, Oregon’s OL is doing those things and not picking up penalties.

The last two weeks, 2 different O liners have been singled out for excellence. We’d be talking some quantum level mathematics about how dominant the O line would be if Sewell was still here. Shough is off to a great start, Verdell is looking better than ever, Morehead’s offense is looking smooth thanks to the really Big Uglies.