It takes a big man to fill size 16 shoes. Everett Benyard fits the description quite nicely. At 6-foot-7, 320 pounds, the redshirt freshman from San Diego has actually shrunk since his true freshman season.
"I tried to work on my conditioning a lot this summer," said Benyard. "That was something I struggled with my freshman year coming in. I really tried to focus on that this summer."
Dropping 20 pounds since spring, Benyard has worked himself into a weight where offensive line coach Steve Greatwood is far more comfortable with his fitness level.
"Everett has to keep the weight down to continue to improve his athletic ability," assessed Greatwood. "He's such a big body but there is no way he can carry that 330 plus. He needs to be in the three-teens to put himself in the right position for us."
Still, the former Cathedral Catholic star will never be at a size where he is buying off the rack. "I have to do a lot of shopping online, especially for shoes. I have some places at home and there are stores that have clothes for big guys."
While enormity is a key requisite for an offensive tackle, it must be tempered with the reality of the game.
"You hear it all the time, the speed of the game is different," Benyard said. "All of us coming out of high school were the big shots. In high school you would dominate everybody. Here we're small fish in a big bowl so you have to adjust to the speed as quick as you can. Those who do are the ones who develop fastest."
But size alone will not get you on the field with the Oregon offensive line, nor will it teach you the intricacies of a college playbook. That's where experience steps in.
"All the veteran linemen help us," said Benyard. "They let us know what's going on and what to do. I think that's why as a group we're going to be so good because of their leadership."
Included in that veteran leader category is fifth year senior Max Forer, who was recently recognized in a big way by the Oregon coaching staff with a full scholarship.
"Max has earned it", Greatwood stated. "He is in his fifth year here and he has always done everything we've asked of him as a player in this program. He has contributed in a huge way for us and I was really pleased when Coach Kelly rewarded him and three other kids with scholarships."
Where did the veterans learn their stuff? Partly it comes from previous veterans. The rest is taught by Steve Greatwood.
"He's the best coach I've ever seen, ever heard, ever played for," Benyard enthused. "He's a great coach. He knows so much about football you can tell. Every practice listening to him, being around him, you can just tell he's a guru. He does a good job of letting us know what we need to do and how to do it."
Benyard is certainly not the only youngster to raise his level of play for Coach Greatwood. Other members of Benyard's class have caught the eye of the veteran coach as well.
"Karrington Armstrong is getting better every day," said Greatwood. "I've been impressed with Mana Greig. I've thrown him in at center the last couple practices and getting him some snaps in there. He may be a real candidate for that third center spot. Everett Benyard has been taking advantage of the snaps he's getting with the two's in Darrion's absence. So there is a lot of promise with those guys."
So far this fall camp, the offensive line has performed quite well. Greatwood has coached long enough to know that the path to success is not a straight line.
"I'm seeing some improvement," said Greatwood. "You know how it goes. Two steps forward, one step back is kind of where we're at. You have to give credit to the defense because they are doing a heck of a job and they're pretty tuned into what we're doing on offense. The individual technique drills are getting better and that's what I place a lot of emphasis on. Hip and pad level and pass protection is getting better. Now it's a matter of pulling it together in the team situation. We'll get that done."
Benyard also credits the unit on the other side of the line of scrimmage for helping make the group better. "Just like last year we see a lot of aggression out of the defensive line. Coach Azz he gives them these techniques and they just play hard, just like we do."
Despite his diligence and tenacity, Benyard recognizes that the offensive line is a deep squad, and playing time is earned rather than given.
"This year I just want to do my part," said Benyard. "I just want to know my role and help the team. I want to work hard every day and never take a play off."
Whether 2010 is the breakout year for Everett Benyard remains to be seen. But with an attitude and work ethic tailored for success, Duck fans have much to look forward to from him for years to come.