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Oregon Football

Next Man Up: Replacing Penei Sewell

September 8, 2020

It still stings even though it was expected. Oregon fans have watched Penei Sewell suit up in green and yellow for the last time as the star offensive lineman has decided to opt out and prepare for the NFL draft.

This decision was absolutely a no-brainer. There was no decision to be made if Oregon was not going to play in the Fall like the other conferences. Even if they play in January, there’s still nothing for Sewell to gain other than playing with his brother for a single season, even a shortened one. 

Penei Sewell was an absolute force. I don’t think any lineman has ever had the kind of impact at Oregon he did. Although some lineman (offensive and defensive) have gone to the NFL and found success, Sewell will enter with increased expectations. He is smart, he is strong, he is athletic, he knows the game, he is going to be a very successful left tackle in the NFL.

But now Mario Cristobal has a massive hole to fill on the left side of his offensive line. He needs to find out who he can trust to protect his quarterbacks blind side. With Sewell out there it was automatic. If he could play, you sent him out there and didn’t worry about that side of the O-line.

Sewell graded out as one of the highest-graded offensive linemen in PFF history. Let that sink in, as a sophomore in college, Sewell graded out better than every other tackle to play the game of college football in the last decade. (ish) That’s remarkable.

But the cupboard isn’t empty and Oregon might have just gotten a key piece back that will help. Here’s my guess how the line shapes up whenever we see the team resume practice. 

The Favorite: Steven Jones

I’ve written extensively aboout how the staff feels about Steven Jones although he has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries, etc. But Jones is a massive human being that has had additional time to transform his body with the S&C staff. 

I’ve had sources indicate they think Steven Jones might not be Penei Sewell 2.0, but the dropoff won’t be as substantial as some expect. 

Had we played a normal season in the Fall with Sewell suiting up, I believe Jones was set to start at right tackle. Giving Oregon two monster bookends on its line. With Sewell gone and Jones likely moving to left tackle, I do think the bigger question mark is who will replace Jones on the right side. 

Runner Up: George Moore

The legend of George Moore. It feels like he’s been at Oregon for six years as a JUCO. However Moore, along with Jones and Sewell was one of Mario Cristobal’s biggest offensive line signings in his first year. He was granted an extra year by the NCAA just a few weeks ago which might prove to be a very valuable addition for the Ducks. 

Moore came in with fairly lofty expectations and to date just hasn’t been able to put it all together. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 310-pounds on the Oregon roster so size isn’t an issue. 

My best guess is Moore either ends up taking the right tackle job or he is a very impactful backup for the Ducks. Remember Mario Cristobal has no problem moving guys around or in an out of the lineup looking for his best starting five.

Watch Out For: Jonah Tauanu’u

The redshirt freshman has come in with lofty expectations and has had a year to develop and learn from one of the nation’s best tackles for a year. Tauanu’u was a top 100 player out of high school coveted by many of the nation’s top programs. 

I think the year of development for him has been key and I do think Jones ends up on the left side with Tauanu’u and Moore being one of the top battles in training camp for the right spot. 

Projected Starting Five: 

My best guess as I see things today going from left to right:

Steven Jones, TJ Bass, Alex Forsyth, Malasala Aumavae-Laulu, Jonah Tauanu’u

That’s how I see this Oregon line shaping up at least in terms of a starting five. I do beleive Forsyth is the heavy leader to be the snap man with Bass and Sala coming in at guard. For whatever reason I do think Tauanu’u ends up starting but I would expect George Moore is used heavily in the rotation. 

Keep in mind I am not considering any 2021 signees that might enroll early and potentially be eligible to play right away. However that will be something to keep tabs on in the coming months. Oregon currently has commitments from Bram Walden, Jackson Light and Jonah Miller. Later tonight Kingsley Suamataia makes his college choice with Oregon viewed as the favorite. 

Tags: Football, Oregon
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