As discussed in our in depth look at the offensive tackle position, offensive line is one of the most critical yet least understood positions on a football team. Without exceptional line play, the Ducks success over the last five years would simply not be possible. We saw early in 2009 just how crucial experience was with this unit. When an offensive line lacks experience, teams can take advantage of mistakes and make the Ducks running game look pedestrian.
As 2009 progressed, however, and the young offensive line began to gain experience,t eh running game became nearly unstoppable. Nonetheless, this is college football and players move on after their eligibility is completed. As such, college football teams are always breaking in new talent along the line.
One benefit that the increasing tempo the Ducks run their offense with is that it required more substitutions than a "regular" tempo offense. With the increased rotation of players, there are fewer inexperienced linemen on the Oregon football squad. That is a positive factor moving forward.
In 2011, the Ducks signed a very impressive offensive line class, most of whom were able to redshirt and preserve a year of eligibility. Today, we will take a look at the interior offensive line positions. As it stands, only one of the current interior linemen departs after the 2012 season; Carson York. That does not mean, though, that the Ducks will not be looking to fill a couple of more slots as there will be a couple of additional interior OL departures after the 2013 season.
Status: Offered, Medium Interest
Overview: Koehler is the top ranked guard in the nation and ranked 67th overall by Rivals in the early rankings. Listed at 6-3 and 280 pounds, Koehler looks considerably bigger than this on film. He has incredibly wide hips and thick legs that will serve him well as a blocker. He is not particularly quick, but has been known to pull from his position and block up-field.
Strengths: The first thing that stands out is that Koehler is a "road grader" type lineman that simply mauls opponents and pancakes them quite frequently. He has strong hips and hands. When he engages a defender, they do not easily shed his block. More often than not,t he defender is unable to get away from Koehler. On film one of the most impressive aspects of Koehler's game is his tenacity. He continues blocking his man long after the running back has gone by him down field. He has all the tools to be incredibly successful at the Pac-12 level.
Weaknesses: Koehler plays tackle at his high school, but he projects as a guard. He does not have the kind of footwork and agility he would need to block on the edge at the college level. While he is good at keeping his feet moving, he simply could not handle the pass rushers in the Pac-12.
DSA Odds: Good
Koehler has not named any favorites and is taking his process slowly. He does list an offer from Yale, so it appears that grades will certainly not be an issue. At the moment, Coach Greatwood is one of only two college coaches to visit Koehler's school. That the Ducks are in early on this highly touted recruit is a good sign, but certainly not evidence of anything more than their sincere and earnest interest in securing Koehler's commitment. Koehler has expressed interest in attending the Oregon camp this summer. At this point, if the Ducks can land one of his official visits, there is a good chance in the 25-30% range that he could become a Duck.
Status: Offered, Committed to Florida
Overview: Though Dillard hails from Michigan, he has considered himself a lifelong Florida Gator fan. The 6-3, 285 pound three star prospect visited Florida for their Spring Game in April and got the "gut feeling" he was hoping for and became a Gator.
Strengths: Like many talented high school linemen Dillard plays both guard and tackle, but he will likely be a guard in college. He shows great strength in his run blocking. He gets off the ball quick and is an aggressive blocker that also blocks until the whistle most of the time. Is adept at getting good position to open a lane for his running back as well.
He does not pull much so it is difficult to determine his ability at this aspect, though he does appear to have decent feet that would allow him to be adequate as a pulling guard. He shows a good ability to get to the second level for blocking.
Weaknesses: He needs work on his pass blocking skills, he does not have adequate footwork in that department. Another thing that stood out on tape is that Dillard tends to "play down" to his opponent. When he is faced with a smaller defender like an undersized linebacker, he tends to take it easier on them.
DSA Odds: None A lifelong Florida Gator fan with a Florida offer who has committed to them early. Unless something major happens with the Florida program that we cannot see, there is a 0% chance that Dillard flips to the Ducks.
Status: Not Offered, Medium Interest
Overview: There is some film for Friedline, but you have to go to youtube to find the video. Friedline is an intriguing prospect who has flown a little under the radar. The Washington native does have offers from a few Pac-12 schools, including both Washington schools. Friedline has a great frame at 6-5 and 270 pounds. While he would certainly need a redshirt year to add some size and strength, he could fit perfectly into the long term plans with Grasu and Stevens graduating in 2014.
Strengths: As mentioned, Friedline has a great frame. He is athletic for a big man and moves well on the field. He engages defenders well and, due to his athleticism has good feet. He can turn a defender well and has shown flashes of ability at getting to the second level. The film that exists, though, is from his sophomore season and he has become better since then. Coaches like his footwork and character.
Weaknesses: Friedline is not as aggressive as he could be in his blocking. He does not explode out of the snap like a dominant high school lineman should. Too often he loses the hand battle when engaging with a defender and lets the defender slide off and get into the play. He needs to work on his strength and add some mass to his lower body.
DSA Odds: Good The Ducks have not offered yet, but have been in contact with Friedline and expressed a very real interest. Friedline would like to visit Oregon. As a devout Christian one of the things Friedline is looking for is a strong Church near campus and a campus life that will offer him a place to share fellowship. If the Ducks continue to pursue and extend an offer, they are likely to get a visit from Friedline. With the right host and with Greatwood recruiting Friedline, the Ducks have a good chance at landing Friedline. He needs some work but could be a very good player with Greatwoods tutelage. At this point, the odds at Friedline becoming a Duck are in the less than 10% range but would go up quite a bit if he were offered.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The West Coast is particularly thin at talented interior offensive linemen for the 2013 recruiting class. It is a good thing that the Ducks appear to be in good shape there going into 2013 as their number of offers indicate that there is not a high priority yet for interior OL in the 2013 class. At this point, we are sticking with our original projection of 2-3 interior offensive linemen in the 2013 recruiting class.
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