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Oregon's speed isn't just about backs

In an ESPN Magazine article, John Brant takes on the true secret of Oregon's success: Jim Radcliffe, who is beginning his 25th season as the Ducks head strength and conditioning coach.

It's about speed, of course. But not as much about DAT and Marcus Mariota as the big guys.

Indeed, the key to Oregon's ascendance might lie less in the telegenic speed of its scatbacks than in the largely overlooked speed of its tackles and guards. In 2009 Radcliffe published "Trench Warriors," an online article in which he delineated his philosophy for training linemen. He panned exercises performed in a sitting or prone position -- the big man's traditional weight-room staples -- in favor of "any drill that involves projection of the hips." Other Radcliffe notes: Stride length can be improved more readily than stride frequency; stride length is largely a function of hip flexibility; speed and strength are most productive when speed is superior to strength; get fast first, then build endurance.

The story notes that Oregon's offensive linemen averaged 299 pounds last year, 15 pounds fewer than national champion Alabama.

[Starting OT Tyler Johnstone learned the bottom line on the O-line: Quickness and endurance outstrip sheer size. Last season Oregon averaged 299 pounds up front, a whopping 15 fewer pounds per man than national champ Alabama.

"Bama O-linemen need plenty of bulk to execute Nick Saban's smashmouth man-blocking schemes," says ESPN analyst Brock Huard. "But Johnstone and [center] Hroniss Grasu are equipped for a zone-run game predicated not on brute force but on movement, stamina and the ability to shield defenders, not necessarily pancake them. The goal is to cut down the initial man and scrape to the second level, eventually wearing down bigger front sevens."

Interesting story.