With spring practice over, The Oregonian is reviewing Oregon’s depth chart position by position. We continue the series by looking at the centers.
Centers are typically the leaders on the offensive line and Alex Forsyth is no different.
The fifth-year junior was already taking on that role when he worked with the second team in 2019, waiting along with most of the other eventual starters in 2020 behind more experienced players, most of whom made it to the NFL.
Forsyth took over as the starter in the spring of 2020 and hasn’t looked back.
He makes the protection calls up front for a group that allowed 11 sacks over seven games, which ranked 29th nationally. Considering Oregon’s entire line was new starters, that’s an impressive debut albeit in a shortened season.
However, there is room for improvement for the group. The Ducks didn’t face three of the top five teams in the Pac-12 in sacks last season and their run protection is an area of emphasis this offseason.
“We always say five men, one mind,” Forsyth said. “You got to be on the same page. Whether I’m making the call the tackle has got to know why is he making that call versus what front. Everybody’s got to know the holistic picture of everything if we want to be five minds as one. I think that’s a big thing we’re trying to emphasize this spring, five guys got to play as one. That’s when we’re most powerful.”
Forsyth is a critical piece for Oregon to improve in those areas in 2021 and also in aiding Jonathan Denis and Jackson Powers-Johnson while they serve with the second and third-teams.
Post-spring depth chart
Alex Forsyth: 6-foot-4, 305 pounds, redshirt junior
Jonathan Denis: 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, freshman
Dawson Jaramillo: 6-foot-5, 303 pounds, redshirt sophomore OR
Jackson Powers-Johnson: 6-foot-3, 284 pounds, freshman
Mario Cristobal’s take
“Alex Forsyth, of course as a leader because he’s a guy that’s started for us. Dawson Jaramillo has done a really good job. … The young guys still continuing to shine; Jonathan Denis, I got to single him out because he’s jumped in there, him and Marcus Harper, at multiple positions and they are playing hard for playing time.”
Forsyth is a steady hand on the field and off. Teammates and coaches speak of him with high regard and most importantly, respect.
He’s earned that by the way he carries himself. Forsyth puts in the time with film study and preparation.
Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal likes to say his group speaks the language of “Oregon offensive line.” Forsyth is not only fluent, he’s a translator for the younger centers in particular and helps them learn the pre-snap identification and calls.
It didn’t count as such, but Jonathan Denis essentially redshirted last season. This wasn’t unexpected and if the season wasn’t shortened he likely would’ve gotten some game action.
An early enrollee in 2020, Denis is the backup on paper entering the offseason. Oregon has depth, particularly on the interior, but if another center had to take over for Forsyth, Denis would be at or near the top of the list of options.
Dawson Jaramillo saw most of his work at right tackle during the spring but he still worked on snaps as well. He’s moved around throughout his career and will vie for game action as a fourth-year sophomore.
Jackson Powers-Johnson was among UO’s early enrollees and served as the No. 3 center during the spring. He’ll likely remain in that role in the fall. Ryan Walk is the starting right guard but is capable of playing center. However, he’s done less work with snaps lately.
“I can tell you right now that if we played tomorrow against Fresno (State) and something happened to Forsyth (Denis) could go play center and start against Fresno. They’ve now gotten to that level where you don’t have to shuffle all the shells, you can now say OK, next. They’re getting better at those spots right now.” — Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal