Ducks Offense: Klemm’s Entire Line Gone and Lost Forever?

DazeNconfused Editorials

Oregon escaped Lubbock, Texas with a hard fought 38-30 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but the unit that was the heart and soul of the Ducks last year was MIA. Oregon’s offensive line that was one of the best in the nation last year, is now a major concern and possibly a limiting factor to their success this season. What happened to cause this collapse of performance you might ask?

To keep it simple, for me the biggest factor is the loss of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm to the NFL at the end of last year. Klemm came to Oregon and inherited a talented line constructed by former head coach Mario Cristobal and OL coach Alex Mirabal. Cristobal, a former college National Champion and NFL offensive lineman, built a culture at Oregon where the OL was King.

Cristobal teams from the get-go displayed improved OL play and improved each year. Oregon became a physically dominant front that could impose their will on the defensive line. The Ducks won two Pac-12 Championships, the 2019 Rose Bowl over a physical Wisconsin defense, and in 2021 ran over the Ohio State defense in the Shoe. Mirabal and Cristobal recruited and coached Penei Sewell to All-America status, and the Outland Trophy winner as the best offensive lineman in college football!

There is no denying the impact Cristobal and Mirabal had in taking the Oregon offensive line to an elite level.

Adrian Klemm came through and produced an extraordinary offensive line. (Screenshot from Pac12 Video)

When Adrian Klemm came in to take over in 2022 the question was, “can Klemm keep the Ducks at that level or will the production fall off?” The fact is, Klemm came in and showed he could take what Cristobal and Mirabal left to yet a higher level of production. Under Klemm, Oregon had arguably the best offensive line in college football and a higher performing unit than any of Cristobal’s. Adrian Klemm proved to be a better offensive line coach than the vaunted Cristobal – Mirabal combination.

Coach Klemm was a proven offensive line coach, recruiter, and three- time Super Bowl Champion with the New England Patriots. Klemm at 45 years-old was the old man of a historically young Ducks staff, and the associate head coach. When Oregon lost Klemm to the NFL at the end of the season last year-they were left with a gaping hole to fill not only in coaching acumen and experience, but also locker room leadership.

Last year’s offensive line carried the Ducks in so many ways. They were among the national leaders in sacks allowed, and gave quarterback Bo Nix great protection. They were a great run blocking unit that paved the way for Bucky Irving to have a breakout season, and become a star. The unit could also go to the Josh-14 formation of three tight ends, and one running back set and blow people off the ball. Everyone knew the Ducks were running the ball in the Josh-14, and none could stop it. Duck fans were giddy watching the OL dominate at will.

The Ducks offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham ran a multiple offense, and the offensive line was the key to letting him call whatever he wanted. After the performance of the offensive line last night, it appears new OC Will Stein doesn’t have that luxury of his offense being multiple. It seems going forward that Stein will have to cobble together a scheme that works around what the offensive line can do, and not what Stein wants to do.

Bo Nix had to rely on passing and scrambling for first downs. (Screenshot from Fox Sports Video)

We saw that adjustment after the Ducks got stuffed on 3rd and 4th down early in the third quarter trying to run power out of Josh-14. This year’s Oregon OL unit wasn’t moving anyone off the ball in its normal offensive sets, and couldn’t even do it out of the Josh-14?

From that point on Stein put the game on Nix’s arm and legs. The Ducks became an Air-Raid offense with Nix going quickly through his progressions. Nix was hitting receivers on crosses, backs on wheel routes up the sideline or checking it down to the running back in the flats. Nix also was pulling the ball when the defensive secondary dropped deep, and ran into the underneath space for first downs. When Stein ran the ball, it was on toss plays to the running back to get them to the edge on the sideline.

That’s how Stein on the fly cobbled together an offense to come back and win this game. I remember only one inside run outside of the Red-Zone, everything else was the toss-play to the edges. The Ducks did run inside for a touchdown inside the ten-yard line – but make no mistake this unit can not run the ball at will.

Will Stein may have his hands tied in play-calling? (Screenshot from Fox Sports Video)

Duck fans are now left pondering what this season will look like after the offensive line play we saw Saturday night. We all collectively realize now what a luxury the offensive line play of last season was, and how it allowed our offense to be so multiple.

Moving forward a deeper look into the personnel and coaching changes on the offensive line is warranted. Duck fans will want answers as to how in just the second game in year-two of coach Dan Lanning’s tenure, the offensive like that Cristobal built, and Klemm improved upon has seemingly disappeared.

Are fans expectations now resting on new OC Will Stein to save the day, and coach around the offensive line’s limitations to save this season? We are certainly in a position that Duck fans are not used to.

Share your thoughts with us in the forum with decorum.

Portland, Oregon
Top Screenshot from Fox Sports Video

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