EUGENE (AP) — Oregon had four offensive linemen receive votes for the preseason all-Pac-12 team.
Position coach Alex Mirabal believes he has another four who could play regularly in the conference.
“You could take a lot of guys on our second line, three or four of them, and every other offensive line coach in the Pac-12 would want that person,” Mirabal said on Friday. “Go watch film and a lot of Pac-12 teams could use three or four of those guys on the second line.”
Oregon returns six starters from last season including seniors Calvin Throckmorton and Shane Lemieux, who have opened all 38 games in their career, and center Jake Hanson, who would also have 38 starts if he did not have to sit out the first half at Utah due to a targeting penalty the previous week.
Penei Sewell started all seven games he played at left tackle as a true freshman and will return to that spot when Oregon opens the season Aug. 31 against Auburn at Arlington, Texas.
The battle for the last starting spot at right guard will come down to seniors Brady Aiello, who has 20 career starts including six last year when Sewell was out, and Dallas Warmack, who started 12 games last year after arriving as a grad transfer from Alabama.
“Both those guys are starters and whoever thinks they are not are fools,” Mirabal said. “Both of those guys would start at any Pac-12 school. We actually feel like we have seven or eight of them that can start at any Pac-12 school.”
Mirabal’s list of possible starters in the conference includes 6-foot-7, 354-pound sophomore tackle Steven Jones, who started against Utah when Hanson and Sewell were out.
“Steven Jones, man, people are sleeping on him,” Mirabal said. “He’s a heck of a football player with a tremendous future and the future is going to come when he finally goes and takes it.”
Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu arrived in January as the top-ranked offensive lineman in junior college while Alex Forsyth played five games as a redshirt freshman last year.
“I would not hesitate to start Alex,” Mirabal said. “You’ll win with Alex, Steven, and Malaesala. Those are the kind of guys making a push to get there.”
Oregon will graduate six seniors on the line next year including George Moore, a highly-touted recruit out of junior college who has played in five games during two seasons with the Ducks. Junior Sam Poutasi has played in six games in the last two years.
Justin Johnson, Chris Randazzo, and Dawson Jaramillo all sat out a redshirt season as freshmen last year while Jonah Tauanu’u is the lone freshman in the latest recruiting class.
“One of our goals in camp was to hopefully try and get eight or nine starters out of it because you are going to need more than five guys,” Mirabal said. “We feel that right now we have eight or nine guys that can go in and play Pac-12 football. We need to keep developing them, they are as important as the guys up front like Hanson, Lemieux, Throckmorton, Aiello, and Warmack. We are focused on trying to get them up to that same level so there is no drop-off if they have to go in and play at some time.”