While spring ball has come to a close in Eugene, the Oregon Ducks still have a handful of significant roles up for grabs on both sides of the ball.
The ScoopDuck staff is breaking down Oregon’s three most important offensive position battles ahead of fall camp.
Oregon’s search for its next starting center will continue into the fall.
With Alex Forsyth now headed to join the Denver Broncos after being selected in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Ducks have not yet identified who will replace their three-year starter.
Marcus Harper II and Jackson Powers-Johnson are both vying for the job. While neither has spent significant time at center during their respective college careers, both are versatile, talented players.
While speaking with reporters this spring, Harper was candid about the difficulties of transitioning to center after starting at left guard last season.
“Center is a lot harder than people think,” Harper said Thursday while speaking with reporters. “I played center a couple of times last year just in practice here and there. It’s a different feel. You’re the second quarterback of the offense. The O-line kind of runs through you — you’ve got to know everything, the ins and outs, and you’ve also got to assert your dominance while also getting the ball to the quarterback consistently.
“That’s been my biggest growing pain right now, but I’m going to get to it.”
Harper was shut down midway through spring ball due to injury.
Both he and Powers-Johnson are going to play plenty next season; whoever doesn’t win the center job will see significant playing time at guard.
Left and right guard
Oregon has at least four players competing for starting jobs at the two guard spots.
Harper, Powers-Johnson, Steven Jones, and Junior Angilau are all very good options for first-year OL coach A’lique Terry. Jones opened the 2022 season as Oregon’s starting right guard before suffering an injury in Week 1. In his absence, Ryan Walk kicked over the right guard and Harper inserted the starting lineup at left guard.
Powers-Johnson played 350 snaps at right guard last season. Angilau, who transferred in from Texas during the offseason, played 369 snaps at right guard and 366 at left guard during his last fully-healthy season in 2021.
As previously mentioned, either Powers-Johnson or Harper will start at center. Sophomore Dave Iuli will push for playing time, too.
The sheer versatility of the Ducks’ interior linemen will give Terry plenty of options in 2023.
While it would be surprising if Bucky Irving isn’t Oregon’s No. 1 option at running back in 2023, the competition further down the depth chart is going to be intriguing.
Irving will enter the fall as one of the top running backs in the nation. He ran for 1,058 yards and five touchdowns on just 156 carries during his debut season with the Ducks.
But Oregon running backs coach Carlos Locklyn made it abundantly clear last season that he is going to frequently rotate his ball carriers as long as the Ducks have the personnel to do so. Irving played 414 offensive snaps last season, and Noah Whittington played 354.
Sophomore Jordan James had a tremendous spring, as did freshman Dante Dowdell.
It’s possible that the Ducks will feature four running backs on a regular basis. The day-to-day competition among the position group is going to be really fun to follow.
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