UO uses spring to find O-line combo
Unger could move to center as Ducks try to replace two players
Even though he is sitting out Oregon spring practice, Max Unger expects to play center for the Ducks next season.
'I got moved to center,' says Unger, a standout, two-year starter at left tackle. 'Coach told me to do it, and it's something I thought would be cool to do. I want to play center.'
As of now, says offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, the big Hawaiian remains the starting left tackle. But, as always, the Ducks will look to put the five best players up front next season.
The five could include Mark Lewis or Fenuki Tupou at left tackle and Unger at center, where Enoka Lucas had started the past three seasons - 33 starts, including 26 consecutive to close out his UO career.
In spring practice, junior Jeff Kendall and redshirt freshman Jordan Holmes have been vying at center. Kendall has the upper hand on Holmes because of his experience. Lewis also can play center.
'We need to establish more depth. I need a core group. I have a bunch of unknowns right now,' Greatwood says of guard and center.
The Ducks also need to replace right guard Palauni Ma Sun. Patrick So'oalo is an early candidate to play there, with two-year starter Josh Tschirgi at the other guard spot.
Lucas had good command of the UO spread offense. He was a leader who called protections and made sure-handed shotgun snaps. Greatwood hopes for such qualities in his next center, 'and I want a physical guy who can move those big bodies around.' But consistency in shotgun snaps is 'first and foremost.'
While Unger doesn't have much experience at that, Kendall feels good about his snaps. He also is up to 300 pounds (and 6-3). 'I'm just getting used to moving around with extra weight,' he says. As a reserve last season, he rarely saw action, except late in the year when the Ducks had him play tight end after injuries made the position thin.
Kendall, from Colorado Springs, Colo., and recruited the same year as Unger, Geoff Schwartz, Lewis and Jacob Hucko, wore his normal No. 51 jersey under his tight end jersey when he took the field on offense.
'A unique experience,' he says. 'It was good experience getting on the field.'
Kendall knows that the O-line of spring could be completely different by the opener Sept. 1 against Houston. 'If you look at the past couple springs, it's always experimental,' he says.
Greatwood has touted the redshirt freshmen foursome of Holmes, C.E. Kaiser, Bo Thran and walk-on Landis Provancha as solid. It's currently a third unit, although each player will be eligible to take the field.
'Now we're getting thrown into the mess, and there's nothing better,' says Holmes, from Yuba City, Calif.
The 6-4, 300-pound Holmes has been pegged for center, or some guard, because 'I'm not long enough to play tackle - got to have height with long arms,' he says.
He's working on snaps and concentrating on the UO spread offense and the no-huddle, which new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly has been known to use extensively.
'You've got to think really fast and make calls, and you've got to adjust calls,' he says. 'I played tackle in high school and didn't make calls. It's growing on me.'