Oregon sophomore Shane Lemieux will start at left guard for the Ducks this season. The Yakima native started all 12 games last season as a redshirt freshman.
We are just 19 days away from Oregon’s first game against Southern Utah on Saturday, September 2 at Autzen Stadium.
If you missed any of my 11-part series projecting the defense, you can find it at ATQ. Now, it’s time for the offensive starter projections for Willie Taggart’s 2017-18 team.
WILLIE TAGGART’S 11
QUARTERBACK - Justin Herbert (Tuesday)
RUNNING BACK - Royce Freeman (Wednesday)
WIDE RECEIVER - Charles Nelson (Thursday)
WIDE RECEIVER - Dillon Mitchell (Friday)
TIGHT END - Jacob Breeland (Saturday)
LEFT TACKLE - Tyrell Crosby (Sunday)
STARTING LEFT GUARD, SHANE LEMIEUX
It would be nice to see Crosby and Lemieux occupying the left side of Oregon’s offensive line this season. Those two have only played together on two occasions during their collegiate careers.
The second time they teamed up came in Week 3 vs Nebraska. Amid Oregon’s first loss of the 2016 season, the left side helped guide the Duck backfield to a season-high 336 rushing yards. That was the final time Crosby and Lemieux played together.
Lemieux is a 6-foot-4 athlete that is light on his feet. His offensive line coach Mario Cristobal loves working with athletic big men after his time with Alabama (2013-16). Lemieux is another young Duck that is being trusted with great responsibility and leadership this season.
Last season, the redshirt freshman helped lead Oregon to a fifth-place finish in Pac-12 rushing (2,717 yards). In fact, the Ducks finished just 104 yards shy of being the No. 1 rushing unit in the conference. If the Duck defense was more competitive last year, arguably the offense wouldn’t have had to throw the ball as much.
Oregon rushed for 29 touchdowns last season, second to only Colorado (30). Additionally, the Ducks tied the league leaders from Arizona with 5.5 yards per carry. UO averaged the second-most rushing yards per contest with 226.4 in 2016.
The scary part is Oregon was featuring four freshmen on their line most of the time. If the Ducks weren’t trailing so often, they wouldn’t have been forced to pass most of the time. Thus, they would have walked away with the rushing title.
Head coach Willie Taggart loves to run the ball. Coupled with the presence of an elite backfield full of depth and you have a recipe for major success in 2017.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Lemieux will help lead the Ducks to the No. 1 rushing rank in the Pac-12 Conference. A season after finishing fifth overall in rushing yards, the Ducks will run away with the rushing crown (3,122 yards) in 2017, literally. Thanks to Oregon’s left side, Royce Freeman will return to form with a 1,600-yard campaign. The sophomore left guard will start all 12 games, extending Lemieux’s streak to 24 straight games to open his college career. Not to mention, the product of Washington will earn 2nd Team Pac-12 honors for his sterling season in the trenches.
Part 8 of Willie Taggart’s Starting 11 series will continue on Tuesday.