- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon fans are going to need a pronunciation guide this season because the player with the most difficult name on the team just stepped into one of the its most important roles.
Meet Andre Yruretagoyena. Pronounced: Ear-ooo-yet-a-go-yay-nah (according to offensive coordinator Scott Frost).
Yruretagoyena is the likely candidate to step into Tyler Johnstone's spot at left tackle. Johnstone re-injured his ACL during the Ducks' first session of Monday's two-a-day practice and will have surgery on Friday, as first reported by CSNNW.com.
Through spring practices, when Yruretagoyena was taking many of Johnstone's reps with the first team, coaches praised his improvement. Frost even said he thought it was the redshirt junior's best spring yet. However, it's easy to praise a player who's sitting behind a possible first-team Pac-12 performer.
Now, that backup is going to be relied upon to protect Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota's blindside.
"Andre has come along," Frost said. "I think he was really raw when he got here. He has grown up a lot."
Yruretagoyena has had quite the journey since arriving in Eugene. He came in at 295 pounds, but ended up dropping 40 pounds of bad weight in order to regain that over the past three years. He's now at a healthy 290 pounds (Johnstone is 289, though he has an inch on Yruretagoyena).
And with that healthy weight has come a higher confidence level in himself and his play.
"When he first came in he was one of those guys -- just like any other freshman -- who was lost with the schemes," Mariota said. "But he has really learned and he has really come a long way with that. We're going to have to depend on him this fall."
"I talk to our guys about self-efficacy all the time," Frost added. "Self-efficacy is if you believe you can get the job done or not. That's a higher predictor for success than sometimes athletic ability. And guys that believe they can do it get it done a lot more often than guys who don't. I think you see a lot of freshmen who come in and don't really trust themselves and by the time they get a little bit of experience they do."
Yruretagoyena gained most of his experience last spring, when Johnstone was still rehabbing. He's only appeared in 11 games for the Ducks -- just seven during the 2013 season -- with his most significant experience being 27 snaps in one game (Colorado, Nov. 22, 2013).
But that limited experience is going to have to transfer into top, veteran-like play for a Ducks offensive line that will need strength to bookend the left side. Johnstone started at left tackle for all of Mariota's 26 starts. They'll have to develop a new chemistry fast, with less than three weeks until Oregon opens against South Dakota.
"He's excited to get this opportunity," Mariota said. "It is unfortunate the way it happened but sometimes guys are going to have to step up. And Andre is going to do that for us and we're going to be prepared for that."
Keeping Mariota healthy is the single most important objective this season, and that responsibility is going to fall largely on Yruretagoyena's shoulders.
As the team integrates a new starter on the offensive line, Ducks fans have their own assignment to prepare for the season. Ear-ooo-yet-a-go-yay-nah. Ear-ooo-yet-a-go-yay-nah. Ear-ooo-yet-a-go-yay-nah.
But if that's too hard -- which it seems to be for most of those associated with the program -- just go with what everyone else calls him: Andre Y, left tackle, Mariota's protector, one of the most important Ducks in 2014.
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