Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
For eight straight games, Oregon’s offensive line had enjoyed outstanding continuity. Beginning with the Ducks’ win over BYU, the starting five up front was the same for eight games in a row.
Injuries suffered against Washington meant that would change when Oregon faced Utah. The Utes traditionally are one of the most physical teams in the Pac-12. The timing was alarming.
But despite fielding a new lineup for the first time in two months, and with the game plan tailored due to quarterback Bo Nix’s limited mobility, the UO offensive line allowed only one sack as the Ducks won their showdown with the Utes last week.
Oregon won despite the absence of center Alex Forsyth. Fellow senior Ryan Walk could move over from guard to play center, but he too was banged up against Washington and had to complete a rehab process before being cleared to play against the Utes. On Tuesday, Walk credited the athletic training staff, including Kevin Steil, Travis Halseth and Rachel Sussman, for helping him recover quickly.
“They really did a good job helping me be ready to go Saturday,” Walk said. “Just went out and did the best I could. And I was glad we were able to get a win.”
The injuries suffered against Washington made the timing of Steven Jones’ return to health all the more fortuitous. Jones was hurt against Eastern Washington, leading to the lineup adjustment the Ducks debuted against BYU and which carried them through the next two months. With Forsyth out and Walk playing center against Utah, Jackson Powers-Johnson started at guard, but Jones played there as well, his first game action since being hurt.
“I missed it – I missed it a lot,” Jones said Tuesday. “Watching my teammates practice every day while I was in the weight room, it sucked. Finally getting out there, it felt like so much fun.”
All season long, position coach Adrian Klemm has worked different line combinations in practices, to prepare the front for situations like the one that arose last week. That the Ducks had to play without their lynch-pin on the line, Forsyth, made the performance all the more impressive.
This week the Ducks are hoping another lineup change is possible – this one for a positive reason, the potential return of their senior center.
“He’s a great vocal leader, he’s tough – he really defines what offensive line play’s about,” Walk said of Forsyth. “Not having him, we obviously missed him. But we’ll be happy to have him back out there this Saturday.”
Notable: Along with crowd noise, the staff piped in the occasional sound of a chainsaw revving for practice Tuesday, preparing the Ducks for what they’ll hear Saturday in Corvallis. … Though defensive lineman Popo Aumavae is listed as a senior on the UO roster, he did not participate in the Senior Day ceremony prior to the Utah game. Aumavae is missing the 2022 season due to injury and hopes to be granted another year of eligibility for 2023. “We certainly want to have him back,” UO coach Dan Lanning said. “So we feel very confident that he’s going to be able to do that.”
Senior tight end Cam McCormick, on his tackle that denied Utah a pick-six last week
“That’s just me playing football, doing what I’m supposed to do. … In the moment, the (chance to make a reception on the pass) was there, and then it wasn’t there. Now I have to shift my focus to, how can I prevent this play from being worse than it already was? And that was just to get him down to the ground.”
Senior offensive lineman Ryan Walk, a Eugene native, on his anticipation for Saturday’s game
“It’s a big game. The state’s really divided over Oregon and Oregon State. Definitely a good rivalry, so it’ll be fun on Saturday. We know it’s going to be a hostile environment up there, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Senior quarterback Bo Nix
Senior offensive lineman Ryan Walk
Senior tight end Cam McCormick
Senior offensive lineman Steven Jones