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Season In Review: Offensive Line

Jan 15, 2021

Reviewing Oregon's 2020 season and looking ahead to spring drills.

DEPTH CHART
LT: George Moore, Sr.; Steven Jones, So.; Faaope Laloulu, Fr.; Jaylen Smith, Fr.; Jonah Tauanu'u, RFr.
LG: T.J. Bass, Jr.; Marcus Harper II, Fr.; Kai Arneson, Fr.
C: Alex Forsyth, Jr.; Jonathan Denis, Fr.; Devin Lewis, So.
RG: Ryan Walk, Jr.; Sam Poutasi, Sr.; Logan Sagapolu, Fr.
RT: Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Jr.; Dawson Jaramillo, So.; Cole Young, RFr.; Jaylan Jeffers, Fr.

Starters: The Ducks went from having the most experienced offensive line in the country to, after the graduation of five seniors and an opt-out by Penei Sewell, the least experienced offensive line in the country. But the new group held its own — center Alex Forsyth was named second-team all-conference by the coaches, and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and T.J. Bass earned honorable mention. Ryan Walk, an all-Pac-12 choice by media, was named Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week after the opening game, and Bass took that honor a week later.

The Ducks spent most of the season using a six-player rotation, with the four mentioned above starting along with tackle George Moore, and tackle Steven Jones rotating in every couple of series. For the season, Oregon's rushing yards per carry improved over 2019, from 4.80 to 4.92. And the Ducks allowed fewer sacks per game, from 1.79 in 2019 to 1.57 in 2020. That's not to say the guys from 2019 weren't missed. But UO head coach Mario Cristobal and position coach Alex Mirabal regrouped about as well as could have possibly been expected.

Reserves: The lack of a nonconference schedule, and also the fortune of good health, meant the Ducks had few opportunities to depart from the regular rotation. Dawson Jaramillo was the next man up, and was ready to help out at center or tackle. Jonathan Denis played himself into position to help at both center and guard if need be, and Sam Poutasi stayed ready at guard as well. Early in the year, Jaylen Smith moved over from the D line to practice at left tackle for the No. 2 offense, but by season's end fellow true freshman Faaope Laloulu had developed enough to handle those reps in practice.

Developmental squad: Athletic freshman tackles Jonah Tauanu'u and Jaylan Jeffers spent the season getting healthy, so members of the travel squad like Laloulu, Harper and Denis helped fill out the scout-team offense at times over the course of the season. The mainstays included true freshman Logan Sagapolu, a bullishly strong interior lineman whose fitness improved considerably by season's end. Devin Lewis and Cole Young provided experience for that group, and Kai Arneson joined the fray, showing the potential for long-term development as a rotation guy.

ROB'S TAKE

SPRING PROJECTION
LT: George Moore, Sr.; Steven Jones, So.; Faaope Laloulu, Fr.; Jonah Tauanu'u, RFr.; Kingsley Suamataia, Fr.
LG: T.J. Bass, Jr.; Marcus Harper II, Fr.; Kai Arneson, Fr.
C: Alex Forsyth, Jr.; Jonathan Denis, Fr.; Jackson Light, Fr.
RG: Ryan Walk, Jr.; Logan Sagapolu, Fr.; Devin Lewis, So.
RT: Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, Jr.; Dawson Jaramillo, So.; Jaylan Jeffers, Fr.; Bram Walden, Fr.; Cole Young, RFr.

What To Watch: For now it looks like the line will return intact, but for Poutasi's graduation and Smith's transition back to defense. One question for the spring will be how big the regular rotation for 2021 can become. Guys like Jaramillo and Denis seemed to be on the cusp throughout 2020, and Harper wasn't far behind. Can they break through and earn some game reps in the fall? Also, Jeffers and Tauanu'u hopefully will be healthy enough to have the chance to carve out roles after being sidelined in 2020. And then there will be three newcomers to watch, in freshmen Kingsley Suamataia, Jackson Light and Bram Walden. With all the veterans on hand, it looks like reps could be hard to come by for a newcomer; then again, that's what we figured when Sewell got to campus in 2018, and he was undeterred.