The Ducks are hosting an FCS team this weekend. Tennessee Tech to be exact. A classic cupcake game, the Ducks should be able to roll up over 500 yards without breaking a sweat. Over the past two seasons, the Ducks have outscored FCS foes 125-7, and that trend will continue in this game.
But this matchup comes at a much more interesting and opportune time than the previous games against Portland State in 2010 and Missouri State in 2011. With the injuries to Carson York and Josh Huff, the Ducks need to use every chance they can get to develop continuity while stay healthy. This is a great week to see that happen as the Ducks tune up before conference play begins.
First, the Ducks must come together along the offensive line. While there is a lot of talent in the two-deep, with the loss of York, the Ducks have either new faces or youth at just about every position. Hronnis Grasu and Nick Cody started last season, but the Ducks have a freshmen, a sophomore, and a JC transfer holding down the tackles, and all of them have had injury issues this year. With this youth and inexperence, the group simply needs to get as much playing time together as possible.
It's been easy to see the talent along the offensive line. You can see flashes with a dominating pancake block at the line or a lineman getting out in space, but the most important aspect of offensive line production is continuity. The linemen must learn to play with each other and trust each other. We've seen some inconsistency in the first two games, which is to be expected, but the line simply must get as many snaps as possible together, and hopefully stay healthy doing it. Unfortunately in the first two games, this has not been able to happen as well as we'd hoped. Tyler Johnstone was knocked out of the Arkansas State game. Kyle Long didn't play against Fresno State and Jake Fisher and Ryan Clanton missed the second half due to injury. These guys have to get used to playing together, and work on improving as a cohesive unit.
At receiver, we'll need to wait and see if Josh Huff is playing. Luckily, he is the only significant injury to the receiving corp at the moment. One of the biggest issues to wide receiver production last season was that there was little stability with so many receivers missing time due to injury. Wide receiver has been a nice surprise so far this season, and with only one injury so far, I am excited to see that continue.
The best news of the week; Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas, and Marcus Mariota are healthy. The best we can hope for this weekend is that it stays that way for another week.