One individual whose contributions have been overshadowed in Oregon’s offensive success has been Steve Greatwood, who is in his 24th season coaching Oregon’s offensive line, as well as his 29th year on the Ducks’ coaching staff.
The 33-year coaching veteran and Eugene native, who has logged 34 years at his alma mater as a player and coach, returned to Oregon as its defensive line coach prior to the 2000 season following a five-year hiatus - two of which he spent coaching in the NFL.
The 57-year-old Greatwood was an integral part of Oregon’s coaching staff for the first 13 seasons of his career that concluded with a berth in the 1995 Rose Bowl, concentrating his efforts on the offensive line from 1982-94.
It has been no different since he resumed his role with the offensive line in 2005 and was elevated to running game coordinator in 2009. During that span, Oregon has claimed nine consecutive conference rushing titles, has ranked in the top 10 in the country in rushing seven of the past eight seasons, and established school rushing records in four of the past seven campaigns.
From a statistical standpoint, it could be argued that Greatwood’s offensive fronts from the past half-decade were among the best in school history. Oregon ranked fourth nationally in rushing (286.2 avg.) in 2010, thanks to a school-record 3,721 yards. In addition, the Ducks allowed a meager 10 sacks in 13 games (0.77 avg.) that year, which ranked seventh in the nation.
In 2012, Oregon averaged better than 300 yards per game running with the football for the first time in school history (315.2), ranking third in the country.
While its rushing attack has been characterized by some as a finesse style in the past, Greatwood has transformed the mentality into a power game. Oregon tied for the nation’s lead in rushing touchdowns (48) in 2012, eclipsed 4,000 yards rushing for the second time in as many years and set the school record for most first downs on the ground (204).
In 2011, his charges performed at peak efficiency. Replacing three starters in the trenches, the Ducks surpassed previous outputs, following up with 4,189 yards on the ground (299.2 avg.) to finish fifth in the country while allowing only 14 quarterback sacks in 14 games.
The 2008 interior line wasn’t too shabby either, ranking second nationally in rushing (280.1 avg.), leading the Pac-10 for the third time in as many years and setting a team standard with 3,641 yards on the ground.
For his efforts, Greatwood was singled out as the nation’s college football Assistant Coach of the Year by FootballScoop.com, in addition to previously being praised as one the top assistant coaches in the country by Rivals.com.
Yet 2014 had to be considered among his most gratifying efforts. Injuries along the trenches tested Oregon’s depth to its limits as he was forced to insert 10 separate players into eight different starting lineups.
One of the nation’s most underrated technicians, the former Oregon standout tutored two-time All-American Max Unger, with the second round 2009 NFL draft choice earning NFL All-Pro accolades in 2012 and ‘13. He also nurtured the careers of All-Americans Jake Fisher and Hroniss Grasu.
Greatwood has tutored seven offensive linemen who were drafted into the NFL over the past eight years, including 2013 first-round pick Kyle Long.
In addition to the Ducks setting a single-season rushing record in 2007, they established a single-game record 465 yards on the ground at Washington, which was later eclipsed with 528 rushing yards vs. Portland State in 2010.
During the 2006 season, the Ducks allowed only 16 sacks to place second in the league in fewest sacks allowed, as his unit played a big part in Oregon leading the league in rushing (182.2 avg.) for the first time since 1955.
His return to the offensive line in 2005 paid immediate dividends as he molded a relatively inexperienced group that included only two returning starters into one that was forced to quickly adapt to a new scheme. The result was a spread offense that improved from 10th in the Pac-10 Conference to third in quarterback sacks allowed (20) as well as ranked among the top 20 in the country in three of four major categories.
While overseeing the defensive line in 2004, the Ducks held their opponents to 122.1 yards per game on the ground - the fifth consecutive season under Greatwood the UO defensive line had helped hold its opponents under 125 yards per game rushing.
In 2003, the Duck defensive line helped post a No. 16th national ranking against the run (107.1 ypg.), highlighted by a trio of all-league defensive linemen. Both Igor Olshansky and Junior Siavii were drafted in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft.
Greatwood’s defensive lines held opponents to negative rushing yards on four occasions in the five seasons, including -3 net yards by No. 3 Michigan in 2003, and limited a Colorado team that came into the 2002 Fiesta Bowl ranked eighth in the country in rushing (228.5 avg.) to only 49 yards.
Following the 1994 season and Oregon’s Pacific-10 Conference championship, Greatwood departed with former Ducks’ head coach Rich Brooks to coach the offensive line and tight ends with the St. Louis Rams. He rejoined the collegiate ranks in 1997 at Maryland before returning to the West Coast the following year and heading the offensive line at USC for two seasons.
In addition to his various coaching duties along the offensive line, Greatwood spent all but one year of his previous stint as a full-time Oregon assistant also tutoring the team’s tight ends.
Receiving his sociology degree from Oregon in 1980, Greatwood initiated his coaching career as the Ducks’ defensive graduate assistant for two years before he was elevated to offensive line/tight ends coach in 1982.