Change is happening in Eugene with Chip Kelly going to the Eagles and the NFL but do not expect to see much change within the Ducks program as Mark Helfrich takes over as head coach. The Ducks will still feature a very high octane offense with plenty of weapons returning and an aggressive defense that flies around with quick and athletic players. The Ducks are still one of the top teams in the Pac 12 and will challenge for North Title once again.
#14 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – CB
5’10” – 190 lbs. – JR
Always underappreciated due to their high flying offense but the Ducks defense is an aggressive group of players and on the back end Ekpre-Olomu is one of the best returning corners in all of college football. The Pac 12 is known for putting NFL caliber quarterbacks in the draft so he is tested weekly. Ekpre-Olomu was all conference and a third team AP All American at the conclusion of his sophomore campaign.
Strengths – Ekpre-Olomu is a fluid athlete on the edge with a tight back pedal and loose hips which allows him to turn and run with a wide receiver. An aggressive player that uses his hands well on the receiver while down the field disrupting the timing with the quarterback. He carries this aggressiveness when attacking the line of scrimmage in run support where is willing to come up and hit the ball carrier on the edge.
Weaknesses – Ekpre-Olomu is a very confident player which at times gets him out of position when a quicker wide receiver gets up on him too fast creating space down the field. At times he will not close out on the receiver eliminating the space leaving a pocket for the quarterback to throw to. Only at 5’10”, he could struggle in the red zone in the NFL with the bigger wide receivers on jump balls. Ekpre-Olomu plays with his hands down the field more than you can in the NFL which can be cleaned up before that point.
Overall – Ekpre-Olomu is a ball hawk and has a tendency to get his hands on the ball which accumulated in 20 passes defended last year to lead the Pac 12 and rank in the Top 20 nationally. Oregon plays a lot of bail technique from the corner position which is where Ekpre-Olomu excels but has the strength to play in press coverage which he will need to do to transition to the NFL. Being in the Pac 12, Ekpre-Olomu will get tested week in and week out where he should be matched up versus the #1 WR from the opposition.
#55 Hroniss Grasu – OC
6’3” – 295 lbs. – JR
Grasu is coming off of an All-Pac-12 First Team selection as a sophomore where he helped pave way for the Ducks explosive offense to average 323 ypg on the ground and 550 ypg overall. He will be entering his junior year and his third season starting at center for the Ducks and 27 straight games entering the 2013 season. Grasu is a Rimington Trophy Watch List player this season and expect to see him there in the end as well.
Strengths – To be a successful lineman in the Ducks offense, a player has to have nimble feet and be very agile to move from side to side and downfield in a hurry and this is where Grasu excels. He is very quick off the snap with great feet to move in space and excels when needed to move to the second level creating space for ball carriers. He uses his hands very well at the initial point of contact in pass blocking.
Weakness – Grasu tends to stop his feet once engaged with a defender in pass blocking. He needs to keep driving his feet and use his quickness to push the defender off the ball creating lanes. Grasu needs to improve his upper body strength to enable him to become an all-around center and able to block downhill in the trenches versus bigger defensive tackles which he will see at the next level.
Overall – Grasu is a very fluid offensive lineman that will draw you attention with his footwork and use of hands. He is used often in the spread offense that the Ducks run in getting down field to pick up second and third level defenders to create running lane and with improved upper body strength Grasu could become a dominate interior offensive lineman and a day one starter at the next level in a zone blocking scheme with his athleticism.