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.