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Mario Cristobal Not Concerned That Rotating Offensive Linemen Leads to Lack of Chemistry

"We were playing the guys we feel can play at a high level."

In 2020, the Oregon Ducks constantly rotated offensive linemen to not only keep players, fresh but to ensure players got game-reps in case of a COVID-19 breakout.

One year later, the No. 11 Ducks have continued its plan seeing numerous non-starting linemen see work during the season-opening win against Fresno State. 

On Monday, Head Coach Mario Cristobal was asked if he's concerned the constant rotation could reduce the chance his starting five linemen of gaining chemistry with one another.

"No we don't," responded Cristobal.

"We were playing the guys that we feel can play at a high level and guys that can execute what we're trying to get done. At the same time it prepares us should there be an injury, should there be some type of issue where guys have to play different types of positions. The techniques that overlap gives us confidence that they're repping the right stuff in the right spots so no, we don't have a concern with that." 

During the preseason, Cristobal and Offensive Line Coach Alex Mirabal talked numerous times about cross-training numerous linemen in the case of injuries. What's more, the staff has been dedicated to preparing the team for a variety of situations, and exposing them to what they'll face in the NFL, where travel squads are limited and versatility is at a premium.

The starting linemen, left to right, Saturday were George Moore, T.J. Bass, Alex Forsyth, Ryan Walk, and Steven Jones. Dawson Jaramillo started the second half at left tackle in replacement of Moore, and on the second drive of the second half, Maleasala Aumavae-Laulu replaced Steven Jones at right tackle and Moore returned to left tackle. 

When Oregon trailed by three in the fourth quarter, the Ducks had a lineup of Jaramillo, Bass, Forsyth, Walk, and Jones. That drive ended in a game-tying field goal.

On the game-winning drive, the Ducks reinserted Moore at left tackle for Jaramillo. Aumavae-Laulu and Jones are listed as co-starters at right tackle heading into Week 2. 

The lone starting offensive lineman to suffer an apparent injury Saturday was center Alex Forsyth who cramped up in the third quarter. Second-string center and true freshman Jackson Powers-Johnson was inserted for the remainder of that drive and Forsyth would eventually return at full strength.

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It's reasonable center would be the exception to the rule of having the program's best five linemen and Jonathan Denis, who had received praise throughout the offseason at backup center, missed Saturday with an injury. Marcus Harper has been getting some work at the position, and Alex Mirabal said in fall camp that he's one of numerous players the Ducks have that are capable of heading the offensive line if needed: Forsyth, Walk, Dennis (prior to injury), Jaramillo, Kanen Rossi, and Powers-Johnson.

The offensive line, like just about every position group, will face its greatest test Saturday in Columbus against a Buckeyes' pass rush that had 21 sacks a year ago.

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