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Oregon center, West Linn native a leader on and off the field as his final season of college football approaches.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon offensive lineman Alex Forsyth talks with his teammates on the sideline against Washington State on Nov. 13, 2021 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

There are more than 50 new players on the Oregon football roster. There's a whole new coaching staff, led by a first-time head coach.

There will be a different quarterback, new running backs and pass receivers.

One position the new arrivals can depend upon is the one the previous coach most celebrated: the offensive line.

Center Alex Forsyth and guard Ryan Walk are entering their sixth year in the program. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and T.J. Bass are sixth-year seniors who transferred to Oregon in 2019, and fifth-year junior Steven Jones has played in 21 consecutive games.

As his final fall camp began Aug. 5, West Linn native Forsyth talked with optimism about having another chance to play alongside friends who have stuck together for multiple seasons. After missing five games with back trouble last fall and experiencing one-sided losses at the end of the season to Utah (twice) and to Oklahoma, Forsyth sounds plenty motivated.

"I've watched those last two games quite a few times and just trying to never let myself forget the feeling I had after those two games," Forsyth said. "For me personally, it's been a motivating factor and a driving factor going into this year that I never want to let that happen again, and I never want this program to be in that place."

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Forsyth and Eugene native Walk are the vocal leaders for an offensive line group that returns five players who started eight or more games last season. Both Forsyth and Walk, who are longtime roommates, said the decision to play one more college season was an easy one.

"Last year going into it, I might have been leaning toward coming back, just because we got a shortened 2020 season. But, especially after I got hurt (last season) it was an easy decision," Forsyth said.

"I haven't improved enough, so I've still got unfinished business," he added. "We didn't end the year the way I wanted it to, so I wanted to come back because I got one last season to prove what I got and try to elevate this team for the years to come."

A former walk-on whose father played for Oregon, Walk said the decision to return for another season was pretty easy for himself and Forsyth.

"We both grew up loving this program, so anything we can do to help elevate this program we want to do," Walk said.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon offensive lineman Alex Forsyth warms up before a matchup with visiting Washington State on Nov. 13, 2021 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

Jones, the "youngster" in the veteran group, said that once Forsyth and Walk decided to return, his decision was easy. He noted that Forsyth, though only a year older, was a mentor who showed Jones how to be an Oregon Duck.

"(Forsyth) showed me the ropes here at Oregon and now I get to play with him one more time. So I really appreciate that," Jones said.

Forsyth said that kind of leadership is a tradition for Oregon offensive linemen, pointing to predecessors including Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson, Tyrell Crosby, Brady Aiello, Calvin Throckmorton as guys who set a high standard.

"I wake up and I get scared that I'm not living up to that standard. I think that motivates me," Forsyth said. "I've seen it done, so I just want to leave this place better than I found it."

Forsyth and company certainly have seen Oregon football change.

Kenny Dillingham will be the third offensive coordinator and Adrian Klemm third offensive line coach that Forsyth has played for at Oregon. That means learning new blocking techniques and terminology and being able to quickly and clearly bark out the blocking scheme before each snap.

"I think going through (coaching changes) twice before really helped me a lot," Forsyth said. "The offensive line schemes that we've been running are pretty similar. It's just a lot changed with the technique."

Mario Cristobal and his line coach Alex Mirabal taught the "double under" technique where a lineman keeps his hands close together and uses a lifting motion to get leverage on his defender. New offensive line coach Klemm wants his players to use a "hands inside" approach, where the goal is to quickly get hands on a defender's chest.

"We had four straight years of doing the double-under, learning that technique and really honing in on it. Now we're trying to relearn going back to hands inside, shooting our hands into the defender's chest," Walk said. "So it's been an adjustment, but I feel like spring ball we got better at it and made improvements.

"There's not only one right way to play offensive line. There's not one way to play any position on a football field," Walk said. "There's multiple techniques that will work and you can have success doing a lot of different things."

Forsyth has made it a point to have a relationship with each offensive coordinator, and said he's building a bond with Dillingham.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - West Linn native Alex Forsyth is preparing for a big final season as the Oregon Ducks' center and the leader of a veteran offensive line.

"I always like to be tight with our offensive coordinators. Center is like the quarterback of the offensive line, so I'm kind of running my own little show down there," Forsyth said.

Playing for three different offensive coordinators has forced him to step outside his comfort zone.

"With the past three coordinators, there's been different wrinkles. And it's really pushed me to kind of expand my game," he said.

Forsyth noted that the offensive players made time to meet as a group over the summer to study the playbook.

"I think that's one thing that we've really taken to the next level," he said. "And that's really going to get to help us during the season, especially this fall camp."

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Forsyth knows offensive linemen get noticed more often for mistakes than for great blocks. But there is plenty of pride among the group with, what Forsyth believes, the toughest assignment in football.

"If you take into account height, weight, speed and strength as all measurables for athleticism, defensive line is probably pound for pound the best athletes on the field for any team across the country," Forsyth said. "You've got to stop them from getting to the quarterback. It's a pretty tough job, and if you screw up once then you know you had a bad game — and if defensive line makes one play then they had a great game."

Of the 16 seniors on Oregon's roster at the start of camp, five are offensive linemen. Another is tight end Cam McCormick. In addition to seniors DJ Johnson, Popo Aumvae and transfer Jordan Riley on defense, that experience bodes well, Forsyth said.

"Any good team, any great team, it's led by the O-line and the front seven on defense," Forsyth said. "No offense to any of the skill positions, but I think any great team you're going to have in college, or at any level really, is going to be led by the trenches, offensive line and defensive line."


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