By Rob Moseley
A look back at Oregon’s month of spring practices that culminated in the spring game on May 3.
Where things stood: All five starters returned from an offensive line that paved the way to a school record 7,345 yards of offense in 2013, with the Ducks’ average of 565.0 per game also a UO single-season record. Center Hroniss Grasu opted to remain in school rather than test the NFL draft waters, and figures to be among the best in the country in 2014. Right tackle Jake Fisher has been a mainstay since playing as a true freshman, and Tyler Johnstone is another potential three-year starter at left tackle, presuming he remains on track to return from his Alamo Bowl knee injury. The Ducks broke in new starting guards last fall in Hamani Stevens and Cameron Hunt; predictably, there were some growing pains, and offensive line play was a factor in Oregon’s reduced red-zone efficiency.
What happened in April: Among the starters, the big news was that the light really seemed to turn on for Stevens. Among the strongest players on the roster, the fact he’s entering his senior year perhaps provided a sense of urgency. The Ducks also got a breakout spring from veteran reserve Andre Yruretagoyena, who took reps at left tackle while Johnstone rehabbed his knee. Yruretagoyena is another guy motivated to realize his significant talents, and he could challenge for time at a few different positions come fall. Also not to be overlooked is walk-on Matt Pierson, who has spent three years developing physically. With redshirt freshman Evan Voeller coming along but perhaps another year away from cracking the rotation, Pierson could be in line for significant reps in reserve this season. This spring was also an important month for Grasu’s backups. Doug Brenner worked a ton with the No. 1 offensive line and got markedly better over the course of 15 practices, and Jake Pisarcik also began to learn the center position, as well. At guard, JC transfer Haniteli Lousi joined the team for spring drills and played consistently with the twos the entire month.
Who to watch in August: Johnstone’s progress will be watched closely to see how soon he can return to game action. And while the guard spots showed improvement in April, there are no givens at this point. Stevens will look to keep pushing through the summer and fall, and Hunt will continue adjusting to the weight gains he made over the winter. They’ll be pushed by the likes of Lousi, Yruretagoyena and Pisarcik. Incoming freshmen Tyrell Crosby and Braden Eggert are massive and talented, though they probably face an uphill battle if they intend to avoid redshirting, given all the returning members of the two-deep.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
LT: Tyler Johnstone, Jr.; Andre Yruretagoyena, Jr.; Elijah George, RFr.; Tyrell Crosby, Fr.
LG: Hamani Stevens, Sr.; Haniteli Lousi, Jr.; Jamal Prater, Jr.
C: Hroniss Grasu, Sr.; Doug Brenner, RFr.; Brigham Stoehr, RFr.
RG: Cameron Hunt, So.; Jake Pisarcik, RFr.; Matthew McFadden, So.
RT: Jake Fisher, Sr.; Matt Pierson, Jr.; Evan Voeller, RFr.; Braden Eggert, Fr.