Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Two-Minute Drill

Pryor Restraint

ESPN news reports that embattled Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has announced through his lawyer that he is quitting the Ohio State football team, passing up the balance of his senior year.  If they have one, he will enter the NFL supplemental draft.

They call it the dismal science

Dan Patrick on his radio show today:  "Twenty-one economists agree that the BCS is a cartel.  You can't get 21 economists to agree on anything."  BCS commissioners are meeting with the Department of Justice this summer, and will try to convince the DOJ that 21 economists are dismally wrong.

Aged beef is the best, but Steve Greatwood can marinate with the best of them

A study a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal determined that offensive line experience was a highly reliable predictor of college football success.  In April 2009. when the article came out, Oregon was tabbed as "a team to worry about" because the Ducks only returned 20 starts on the offensive line.

There are lies, damn lies and statistics.  Though the Webfoots did stumble in their season opener against Boise State that fall, in large part because the offensive line got dominated and pushed around.  Steve Greatwood and his group recovered quickly as the Ducks put together seven straight wins, beating #18 Utah, #6 Cal,  and #5 USC before falling to Toby Gerhart and Stanford in a shootout in Palo Alto 51-42.  Oregon went 10-3 with that "question mark" offensive line, besting #16 Oregon State 37-33  to secure the conference championship and the Rose Bowl.  For the season the line pushed the pile for 3,021 rushing yards and 36.1 points per game, but in the three games they lost, they were admittedly outplayed on the line of scrimmage.

Fast forward to 2011,  and concerns are again great about experience on the o-line, but this time the outlook is not as grim.  Ted Miller had these figures today, returning starts for all the offensive lines in the PAC-12:

Here's how the Pac-12 stacks up (number to the left is national ranking in this category).

Number of returning starts on the offensive line

No. 17 Colorado, 97
No. 22 Oregon State, 91
No. 30 California, 85
No. 32 Arizona State, 84
No. 37 UCLA, 80
No. 53 Washington State, 71
No. 62 Washington, 65
No. 65 Utah, 63
No. 83 Oregon, 56
No. 89 Stanford, 50
No. 111 USC, 27
No. 120 Arizona, 1
(The list was compiled by the ubiquitous Phil Steele.)  Note Stanford, USC and Arizona, all three with top-flight quarterbacks, each a likely first-round NFL draft pick, but the three lowest marks for offensive line starts.  Nick Foles in particular may have to chuck and duck this season, breaking in an entirely new front.

Oregon's 56 is almost triple the number of starts from '09, and in addition, Greatwood plays a strong rotation.  Nonstarters like  Ramsen Golpashin,  Nick Cody, and Mana Greig play significant snaps last season.  Greig, for example, appeared in seven games and took 54 snaps against New Mexico.  The Oregon line has much better depth than '09, when Greatwood had to start a fresh and untested group.  These players have had more time in the system, including two and three years of the Oregon practice pace.

In addition, a talented group of newcomers, all slated to redshirt, will push for spots on the travel squad and provide insurance.  They're a year away, most likely, but reports are that Andre Y. and Tyler Johnstone have been working out together four days a week, so hard and effectively that Johnstone has added 25 pounds of muscle to his 6-7 frame.  Redshirt transfer Ryan Clanton and returnee Hamani Stevens, a recent readdition after completing his religious mission, will also add needed depth.  Both will challenge for starting spots, keeping in mind that Greatwood likes to mix-and-match and crosstrain his linemen for added versatility.

The three starters who do return, Mark Asper, Carson York and Darrion Weems, are strong, smart and reliable, a good foundation for their linemates in maturity, technique and leadership.

Another big difference from '09 is that both the principle running backs are quick hitters, adept at making an offensive line look good and exploiting even the smallest crease.  During spring practice Rob Moseley noted how gifted LaMichael James is in reading and setting up blocks.  James is a finely-tuned sports car running the football, sticking his foot in the ground and going from zero to sixty in nothing flat.  The '09 team featured LeGarrette Blount, a fine runner but one who needed a lane to get started, more of a souped-up bulldozer than a Ferrari.

We've talked about this before, but it comes up so often in national analysis it has to be restated.

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