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Why We Watch: Arik Armstead and Archetypes

Arik Armstead has had lofty hopes heaped on him since joining Oregon, largely through the hopes of the fans based on what they thought his ceiling could be. We've seen it before and we will see it again because Armstead's journey fits an archetype.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Arik Armstead entered the Oregon football program with a lot of fan-fare.  He isn't the type of recruit that Oregon gets.  Huge, fast linemen are normally reserved for the SEC or traditional power programs like Ohio State, USC, or Texas.  Though there is a history of big linemen dominating at Oregon it is the exception rather than the rule.  Linemen that are 6'8" and 300 pounds and can also play basketball on the side don't make it to Oregon that often, which is what made his arrival all the more exciting.

Hyperbole ran wild, as it often does with recruits, about what Armstead could be.  The most obvious and easiest comparison was to Haloti Ngata.  With the legacy attached to Ngata and other huge linemen like Will Sutton dominating in the trenches there was a clear archetype that is set up for Armstead to follow.

An archetype, for those who might not be into psychology or Carl Jung, is a pattern of behavior or fundamental characteristics of a thing that appears to hold across space and time in the world.  For example, the heroic archetype has the same steps from a mysterious birth/origin to having a mentor and magical power.  Examples include Luke Skywalker from Star Wars or Jesus Christ from the Bible.

When Armstead committed and people saw his measurements and ability he seemed like a prototypical defensive linemen who is too big to be blocked by one man but also too quick to be contained by two.  These are guys who can single-handedly take over games.  They can take up three blockers and leave other linemen in 1-on-1 matchups.  They can apply pressure to the quarterback with a minimal number of rushers allowing up to 8 defenders to drop back into coverage.  They make everybody else's job easier.

Oregon fans have long been yearning for line play on both sides of the ball that can compete and be superior to that of the SEC.  Line play has been the missing link for Oregon to make the jump to national champions.  So when a 300-pound behemoth comes to Oregon, everyone's eyes light up.

A rule of thumb in college football is that the closer you line up to the ball before the snap the harder it is to learn the position and get playing time early.  So far, Armstead has been a solid rotation player showing a continual flash of the brilliance that we feel we can expect from him on almost every down.  He has discontinued his basketball career to focusing on football and I feel that he is poised for a big jump.

We've seen this before.  We've seen huge linemen come in and take over games and almost revitalize programs by themselves whether it is at Oregon or another school.  Oregon fans idolize the skill position players with lightning speed while secretly hoping and praying that a defensive lineman will become impossible to ignore.

I bring up these points not to apply pressure or to speak in certainties.  In reality, one of the reasons why I love college football is because of how there are no certainties.  But in the case of Arik Armstead and the destroyer of worlds defensive lineman archetype it just makes sense.  I've seen players like him reach heights that carry them to the top of the game.

There are many different storylines that are repetitive in college football, so it is not as if Armstead is a boom or bust whether he becomes the defensive lineman that we almost unfairly hope he becomes by heaping on pressure and lofty expectations.  As fans we are fueled by hope that this year will be different and that the ball will bounce our way and that the field goal will split the uprights the one time that we really need it.  We also hope that a heroic archetype emerges on defense the way Marcus Mariota has emerged on offense as a hero.  We know that it is unlikely and very challenging to do, but we also know that it only takes one to change the game.