Oregon's Jake Fisher, Hroniss Grasu compared to NFL starters

DALLAS -- Few coaches in the country can match the experience longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood has in developing players for the next level. One only has to look to NFL rosters of the past season to see the fruit of such labor, with six of his recent pupils in the league.

The next two players that will head off to the pros after being mentored by the 32-year coaching veteran are likely Ducks offensive tackle Jake Fisher and center Hroniss Grasu. The two are highly regarded by scouts for their size and ability to play in space. Greatwood said Saturday during media day for the national championship game that he thinks the Ducks' offensive system will help each transition to the NFL.

"One of the biggest things is they have to react very quickly and be able to adjust on the move, our offense demands that. We're not going to go up and make checks so teams can adjust," Greatwood said. "I'd like to think I prepare them technically in terms of run and pass skills so they can go in and make a team."

Fisher is one of the top prospects on the team and his strong play at left tackle since returning to the lineup after an early season injury has been key for Oregon's impressive run to Monday night's national title game. His tenacity on the field in setting the edge for running back Royce Freeman and protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota's blind side is one reason why the Michigan native has drawn comparisons to former teammate and Chicago Bears 2013 first-round pick Kyle Long, who was named last month to his second Pro Bowl team in as many seasons.

Comparing Fisher to Long is high praise for a no-nonsense assistant coach, but Greatwood's eyes really lit up on Saturday when discussing Grasu. He has earned All-American honors and might just be the best Oregon has had at the center position since the days when Seahawks veteran Max Unger was manning the position nearly a decade ago.

"Both are extreme competitors. Unger was more of a hard-ass on the field and the one thing I get on Hroniss about is I think he's too nice of a guy sometimes and he needs to finish guys off more," Greatwood said. "I think Hroniss is a little bit more athletic than Max, though. They both have those intangibles at the position, though, extremely intelligent and tremendous competitors that do whatever it takes to win."

The pair of seniors brushed off any NFL draft discussion when asked about their futures the past few weeks and both seem intently focused on closing out their careers with the school's first-ever football national championship on Monday in North Texas. If they're able to put a check mark in that box, though, each might find themselves hearing those comparisons to past Oregon offensive linemen more and more leading up to the draft in the spring.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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