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Oregon football recruiting: Crosby stills the gnash, though young

Imagine a six foot eight, 330-pound spit-dribbling Jim Bob, jut-jawed, scowling, slightly cross-eyed, brain as mushy as day-old grits with red eye gravy, consciousness marinated in red meat, mama love and stripper fantasies, looking like an extra from Django or Deliverance in lumpy clothes. 

Then imagine Jim Bob lasting 15 minutes at an Oregon practice. If the blistering physical pace didn’t destroy him, the mental demands of flashing play placards every 12 seconds amid crisply orchestrated drills would fry his Toby Keith-addled brain.  

Hard to imagine why some Duck fans cling to one tired question like beer suds to a carelessly-washed glass: “Why can’t the Ducks recruit any big, dominating, SEC-style offensive linemen?” 

 

The notion should have died when Max Unger, Geoff Schwartz and Adam Snyder started making good money in the NFL. It should have been buried when Kyle Long went to the Bears in the second round of this year’s draft. And it should have been exorcised forever when 6-6, 294-lb. Jake Fisher, a battering ram of a blocker who later led a 730-yard, 62-point assault on the USC record book, weaved the length of the field stride-for-stride with De’Anthony Thomas and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

 

The Ducks don’t need SEC-type linemen. They have something better. Hroniss Grasu (6-3, 294) Fisher and Tyler Johnstone (6-6, 292) spearhead a unit that is strong and physical, but also smart enough to handle the demands and pace of the nation’s most exciting offense. The Webfoots racked up nearly 7000 yards last year while scoring 49.6 points per game on the way to a 12-1 record and their fourth straight trip to a BCS bowl. Their “bullets over bowling balls” approach has driven their success to a level long-time Oregon fans couldn’t have dreamed of 20 years ago.

Jim Bob ought to stay near home, where his mama can keep an eye on him.

Photo right: Tyrell Crosby has the size and potential to be the next great Oregon lineman, if the Ducks can hold on to him during a frenetic recruiting chase (Sam Morris, Las Vegas Sun photo).

Meanwhile, Steve Greatwood and the rest of the Oregon coaching staff are combing the country, looking for the next group of Oregon style offensive line studs. Every year about 250,000 seniors play high school football, and the Ducks sign 20 to 25 to letters of intent. Finding the right 25 is a monumental task, and it’s an honor to be one of the them.

Oregon’s marvelous success starts with superb scouting, recruiting and player development. Fisher, for example, played tight end and defensive tackle in high school, but Greatwood and the rest of the Webfoot staff immediately saw his future belonged on the offensive line, where he’s played both guard and tackle. Marcus Mariota is extremely glad Jake has become one of his key protectors, part of the drive train of the UO offensive machine.

But in a season or two Mariota and Fisher will join Max Unger in the NFL, and that’s why fans should be excited about Tyrell Crosby.

Playing his high school ball for Green Valley High in Henderson, Nevada, Crosby is agile enough to play center on the basketball team, scoring 19 points and nabbing 10 rebounds in a game against Silverado in late January.

When the Ducks landed his verbal commitment back in April, Crosby was still an under-the-radar prospect, but he’s blown up in the last two months, garnering another dozen offers, including USC and Florida. The Green Valley product doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the attention, tweeting today that he’s still eagerly looking forward to signing with UO next February.

Crosby fits the mold as a Steve Greatwood prodigy in another way. He’s also a solid student, sporting a 3.2 GPA in high school. Quiet, grounded and mature, he should fit in and adjust quickly at the next level, with the athletic ability to contribute early if necessary. The extra exposure he’s getting in camps and coaching clinics, as well as an additional year of competition in both football and basketball, should help him prepare.  Plus he’s still growing, adding even more muscle to his athletic frame during a sixth period weight lifting class.

When Florida offered last week, it became very clear that his recruiting is reaching a new level. USC came to his spring football practices. Boise State has offered, Nebraska, and both the Arizona schools. Chip Kelly used to compare a verbal commitment to getting engaged, but it’s more like dating a girl who likes fast cars. The pressure on Crosby to waver will be intense. It’s a testament to how well the Ducks scout players, their finding Crosby well in advance of a pack of arranged dates and offers of free cars, a steady diet of flattery and 50 hand-written letters a week for the next eight months.

He remains solid to Oregon at the start of a whirlwind summer, stating he’s excited to play in an offense that will utilize his athletic ability and allow him to become part of a winning tradition.

Crosby’s highlight film can be found here.

Scouting notes:

Plays left tackle, the quarterback’s protector, and his on-field demeanor and persistence shows he takes his job seriously.
 
Play 1: outside running play to his side and he seals off the defensive end and gets great leverage as the running back scoots free off his left hip. Stays with the block and gets in an extra blow. Moves well, keeping his feet moving upfield after his assignment is finished. Hands inside the shoulder pads nicely as he controls his man at the point of attack, driving the defender well inside and out of the play.
 
Play 2: Pass play, straight drop back out of spread. Tyrell squares off nicely and walls off the defensive end, forcing him outside and again, well out of the play. Has created a nice little seam if his quarterback decides to run. His corner of the protective pocket is stitched tight. 
 
Then he adds the exclamation point, physical intimidating his man with a powerful shove that puts him on the ground as the ball is released. Has excellent agressiveness and the will to wear down an opponent, the kind of concentrated effort that destroys a defender by the fourth quarter. Nice.
 
Play 3: From their own 40, a shotgun snap near the left hash, second and 10, a pass-first down. The Gators instead run the option left. The play fails due to inside penetration, but #78 has pushed his man 7 yards upfield and he’s still driving him toward the bus at the whistle. Stops just short of excessive blocking. Love this. 
 
Crosby is way too upright in his blocking technique and stance, but he’s agile and shows desire and just the right amount of meanness. Greatwood can refine his fire out and pad level, but the hunger and the motor are exceptional, and the kid has athleticism, extremely good feet. His basketball background will help him develop as he makes the adjustment to Division One football, the extra demands of playing defenders with size and agility to match his own. Somewhat raw, but a terrific prospect, a leader with the desire to win and be great.
 
Play 4: Spread formation with wide splits, from the red zone. It’s a counter play to Crosby’s side, and his job is block down on the nose tackle, double-teaming him along with playside offensive guard in what the Ducks call a “bust block,” the objective being to drive the opponent’s sternum into the ground. Crosby pancakes the biggest defender on the opponent’s line with one quick blow, then slides off him onto the middle linebacker with ease and drives him to the ground. He looks like Fezzik setting Westley into a chair as he punches a four-inch-thick door open with his fist. Touchdown, Gators, from ten yards out.
 
Play 5: Bubble screen right, and 78 has the simple responsibility of containing the weakside rusher for a two count, but he blasts 2 opponents to the turf with a quick stunning shove like a couple of dim-witted human dominoes. Tremendous natural upper body strength. Scary to think how dominating he’ll be with improved technique and an understanding of how to use his lower body. Heads upfield at a trot in case he can get in another lick, or join the celebration on a long touchdown play. Very businesslike as a blocker. No finger pointing or trash talk, just does his job and hustles upfield. Plays with humility and purpose, a great trait in a kid who’s starting to get a lot of individual attention.