Some of the best prep the Oregon offensive line has done over the past few weeks has been away from the football field, coaches and the rest of the team.
Senior offensive guard Cameron Hunt has gathered with players to run through game film -- both from the Ducks’ practices and UC Davis game film -- to explain what goes through his brain when watching the film.
Every week, film study is an important element to the game. But this week, as the Ducks prepare to start three redshirt freshmen on the offensive line against UC Davis in their season opener, it’s especially important.
“I’m just trying to give them an older perspective as far as how to look at the game,” Hunt said. “I think that’s what has really helped them mature early.”
Hunt is the only definitive starter with significant experience. Junior left tackle Tyrell Crosby (18 career starts) is considered day-to-day after being spotted in a boot last week. In his absence, tackle Zac Morgan, a graduate transfer from Dayton, or redshirt freshman Brady Aiello could start.
The other three starting spots on the line that make film study this week so important are all occupied by redshirt freshmen -- right tackle Calvin Throckmorton, center Jake Hanson and left guard Shane Lemieux.
Hunt has spent a lot time focusing on what they can try to key into in order to pick up blitzes, and working on communication with the group within that setting and translating it to the field.
“Just telling them how I watch film,” Hunt said. “How they can get keys from that to help them watch film and make them a better player.”
Hunt knows the Ducks can’t afford to suffer any kind of early-season jitters or mistakes on the offensive line. Over the last two seasons, that has really been an Achilles heel for the Ducks.
In 2014, the Ducks were without tackle Tyler Johnstone and saw further injuries on the line as center Hroniss Grasu and tackle Jake Fisher both missed time. The line gave up 31 sacks and quarterback Marcus Mariota wasn’t able to stay healthy the full season.
Last season, again, there were some evident struggles with the offensive line (the performance against TCU was an obvious one), and though Vernon Adams Jr.'s broken finger wasn’t a direct result of the offensive line not doing its job, the line did give up 39 sacks.
So Hunt -- from experience -- understands that even though Dakota Prukop will likely be the key that starts the engine, it’s the offensive line that will act as the wheels, moving the group forward.
And, as the unit’s most veteran, experienced player, he’s taking on that responsibility to bring along the younger players so it doesn’t look like the Ducks have three players out there who haven’t played live snaps of football in two years.
Through all the meetings, he has also focused on the mental side of the game, making sure that the younger players understand that being too hyped or too calm will both result in them not playing their best. He said he’ll be on the lookout Saturday morning for anyone who might seem like they’re going through their motions differently than any other Tuesday or Thursday during fall camp.
“It’s no different than what we’ve been doing the last two months,” Hunt said. “It’s going to be the same guys out there on the field executing the offense to the best of our ability.”
Hunt just hopes the unit looks like it has the last two months, without the similar fates the offensive line has experienced over the last two years.