Ed.: JConant just thought he could sneak in here and leave a fanpost? I don't think so. Front Page'd.
If you've felt inclined, as I have the past few days, to read previews of the Oregon v. LSU game, you've run into one recurring theme. It goes something like this: "Oregon's big question mark is the offensive line, where the Ducks return only two starters. The Ducks have a history of struggling with physical defensive lines and will probably do so against LSU." It's always a foregone conclusion, typically followed by the seemingly mandatory dose of "SEC - SEC - SEC".
On a couple of occasions I've taken a few minutes to set the record straight. Fighting the good fight, if you will. Here are the facts.
R-G beat writer Rob Moseley has posted a couple possible starting line-ups recently. One looks like (R to L) Asper, Golpashin, Grasu, York and Weems. The other looks like Asper, York, Grasu, Clanton and Weems.
Carson York and Mark Asper meet all definitions of returning starters. Asper has 24 career starts. York has 22.
Darrion Weems seems to be the guy many writers are missing on. So let's clarify. Weems has eight career starts for the Ducks. Seven of those came last year, at left tackle versus Tennessee, Portland State, #9 Stanford, Washington and #1 Auburn, and at right tackle versus Washington State and #24 USC. He played no less than 20 snaps in 11 games in 2009, including a start and 67 snaps in the Halloween ass-whoopin' put on #4 USC.
Call me a rebel, but I'm saying the Ducks return three starters on the O-line, not two. To state otherwise is to admit you're not paying attention. Plenty of folks guilty of that these days, even a few who collect a paycheck from a publisher and as such are deemed legitimate by our local compass of credibility, Lindsay Schnell. Yes, that was a shot and probably diminishes my credibility.
So what do we have in the guys who have no starts?
It's beginning to look like Hroniss Grasu has won the starting center spot, and it's not unfair to call him the biggest question mark. As a redshirt freshman, he has zero starts. He'll have butterflies. He may have to make critical assignment calls. I say may because that responsibility can be managed from other positions. He'll have some big beef with bad intentions lined up right across his nose. He'll have to make crisp, accurate snaps under duress or everything goes to crap.
That said, Grasu's "measurements" look excellent. He's 6-3 and just under 3-bills. In just his second year in the program he ranks top three among all Duck lineman for nearly all of the lifts and runs. Physically, Grasu's got it. If he can keep it together between his ears he might hold his own just fine on Sept. 3. BTW - I'm no prognosticator (you've ATQers have seen my game picks), but I have a hunch that Grasu might end his college career as one of the best centers Oregon has seen in a while. The LSU game might just be his first step as a four-year starter.
Ramsen Golpashin is an interesting story. A former walk-on, he played 18 or more snaps in five games last season. Remember that game-ending, down-your-throat drive to finish the game at Cal? Yep, Golpashin was in for an injured Weems. True, weighing in at 275, he's light. He's also agile, like Grasu.
Ryan Clanton is a wild card. He's 6-5, 300, strong as an ox and shows decent agility. He's new, so we have little to go on except generally positive reviews from local guys who've watched him each day of camp. Whether he starts or subs, it shouldn't shock us if Clanton shows the ability to at least hang with LSU's boys.
Just so I'm not misunderstood... LSU's front line should present a significant challenge. They will be tough and they they might regularly disrupt Oregon's offense. No different than Ohio State. No different than Auburn. Questions will have to be answered by new guys with no starts, just like they will have to be answered by Asper, York and Weems who were on the field for two BCS bowl losses.
Color my glasses green, but I guess I'm not willing to concede that the line is without question advantage LSU. It's entirely plausible that Oregon's TWO new starters will do good enough. And if they do good enough for a couple quarters, and if that special offensive rhythm kicks in and if LSU's big guys get gassed, they might even do great. The experience is there, and those lacking experience have been coached up by one of the best position coaches in the country, Steve Greatwood.
Next time you see some random writer or poster yapping about Oregon's lack of experience up front, consider taking a moment to set the record straight. You've got all the facts you need right here.
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