It’s November, folks, and we all know what that means. College Football is headed down the home stretch and the world of the Oregon Ducks, it means just 4 games stand in their way of finally arriving at the much-anticipated and first ever College Football Playoffs. Without a doubt though, the elephant in the room no one really wants to talk about is it also means Duck fans will have just a handful of games to watch their beloved quarterback, Marcus Mariota, in an Oregon uniform before he heads off to the NFL.
Until then, Mariota is committed to his team and determined to take care of business. While he does, those watching can’t help but get excited about the things to come for a guy who has made everyone proud and green and yellow prayers that he stays healthy are going up all across the country. Somewhere between the desire to see the team head to the National Championship and to see Mariota win that coveted Heisman, every Ducks fan wants nothing more than to see Marcus make it out of Eugene 100% healthy. So as the Ducks head to face Utah, one of the country’s leaders in sacks per game, there may be some extra prayers going up this week. Or, at least some extra eyes on those big guys in charge of protecting Oregon’s most loved asset.
For just a moment, let’s join Mariota in giving some credit to the Ducks’ Offensive Line. Mariota is amazingly talented, but he is allowed to be even greater because of the work these guys put in. Not convinced? Having just one of these veterans, Jake Fisher, out with an injury in just two games translated to Mariota being sacked 12 times between those two games. To put that in perspective, he has only been sacked a total of 7 times in the other 7 games. That statistic alone should make any fan take a closer look at the guys on the line and show them a little love while those of us in the media world take some time out to highlight them. You may know their names, but how much else do you really know about them? Though there are many other important players on the line, Here are a few quick hits on each of tomorrow’s starters to get you in-the-know.
# 54Hamani Stevens, Redshirt Senior
At 307 pounds and 6’3’’, Stevens is the oldest veteran of the Offensive Line who Mariota credits with having taken him under his wing when he arrived. Arriving at Oregon from Hemet, CA in 2008, Stevens red-shirted his first year before leaving on a two-year religious Mission. He returned in 2011 and became a regular starter in 2013. That year, according to goducks.com, he lead all offensive linemen with a 395-lb. bench press. Oh! And when he’s done on the field, Stevens is, according to Mariota, a very good barber.
#55 Hronis Grasu, Redshirt Senior
Also hailing from California, Grasu is the man snapping ‘the rock’ to Mariota. If it’s not hiked perfectly every time, it could spell trouble for a team with very high expectations. Fortunately, Grasu does not disappoint. Being able to communicate with Mariota and the other veterans on the line with as much a look is one key he’s shared has made a big difference. Among the many national award list honors, Grasu has also won the program’sTodd Doxey Award, “. . .exemplifying the spirituality, dedication and brotherhood associated with being an outstanding teammate exhibited by the school’s former defensive back who drowned prior to the 2008 season (goducks.com).”
#62 Matt Pierson, Redshirt Junior
Note: Pierson suffered an MCL Sprain in last week’s game against Stanford. He is listed in the starting line-up this week but could be replaced by true Freshman Tyrell Crosby.
A 6’6 285 pound Oregon native, Pierson is probably the least experienced on this line, though he has proven he is capable to fill the need. A non-scholarship player, Pierson has worked his way into the starting line-up after accepting an invitation to walk-on to the Oregon Football program- a very difficult task.
#78 Cameron Hunt, Sophomore
Another Californian, Hunt stands at 6’4” and weighing in at 290 pounds. Last season, after arriving to Autzen as a 4-start recruit, Hunt became the program’s first true freshman offensive lineman to move into the starting lineup in 16 years. Offensive Line Coach, Steve Greatwood, recently told CSNNW.com that Hunt was one of the “sharpest guys” he has.
#75 Jake Fisher, Senior
Last, but certainly not least, Jake Fisher, a 6’6” 300 pound Senior from Michigan has quickly received star status among Ducks fans after appearing to turn the Oregon Offensive Line immediately around upon returning from an injury that kept him out of two games this year. One of those games resulted in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats. Again, the stat stands alone. Without Jake Fisher on the line, Mariota was sacked 12 times in 2 games. With Jake Fisher, he’s been sacked just 7 times over the other games (some resulting in no sacks). It appears there’s a reason why Fisher was a 4-star recruit.
There’s no question, tomorrow’s match up against Utah will be one of the season’s toughest challenges for the offensive line. But something tells me these guys will come out on top. If I, after only talking with Mariota a handful of times, would probably suit up and do my best from 5’1” to protect him, I can only imagine what these guys, who spend day in and day out with him, would do to protect his NFL dreams. I guess that’s what he gets for being ‘nice’.