Oregon C Grasu faces challenges in second year

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — In golf, it's called the yips. Oregon center Hroniss Grasu doesn't have a name for it when it comes to football, he just knows he doesn't like it.

Grasu has worked this week to conquer football's version of the yips that were evident last week in the No. 4 Ducks' 42-25 victory over Fresno State.

One of his snaps was so off it went — inadvertently — into the hands of running back Kenjon Barner.

It was unusual for Grasu, who was settled comfortably into his role last season as a redshirt freshman. He called it the worst game of his life. But he also felt just as "off" in Oregon's opener against Arkansas State, a 57-34 victory.

"I'm really bothered by it," he said. "There's no excuses for that. I snap the ball 100 times a day. It should go to the chest every single time."

Grasu can be excused, of course, because it was still a win for Oregon, which improved to 2-0. The Ducks host lower-division Tennessee Tech this Saturday in their last non-conference game.

Grasu, a 6-foot-3, 284-pound native of Encino, Calif., became a starter last year after competing with Karrington Armstrong for the job. He anchored an offensive unit that was ranked third in the nation in scoring and sixth in total offense.

Coach Chip Kelly has often said that the best compliment he can give Grasu is that he never has to think about him. He's that steady and dependable.

Grasu was named to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, awarded each year to the nation's top center.

With 14 starts behind him, Grasu said this season he's taking on more of a leadership role. His quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is a redshirt freshman who won the starting job after competing with Bryan Bennett in fall camp.

Bennett was backup last season to Darron Thomas, who threw for a school-record 33 touchdowns before deciding to leave Oregon with a year of eligibility left.

Bennett and Grasu were teammates at Crespi High School in Encino. At Oregon, they're best friends and roommates.

Grasu said he was obviously pulling for his pal to win the battle at QB, but he trusted Kelly and the other coaches to make the right decision about who should be the team's starter.



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