Players to watch: Offensive weapons will be crucial for success

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

Here are the players to watch when No. 17 Oregon plays No. 7 Washington on Saturday in Autzen Stadium.

Greg Gaines / Washington DE #99 / Senior

He’s easy to spot. Not because he is 6-foot-2, 316 pounds — although that helps — but because he doesn’t wear anything on his arms. No gloves, tape or extra pads. He plays like it, too. He’s physical within the interior of the defensive line — and he is quick: a perfect combo. Like any interior lineman, his stats don’t pop. But he makes plays when he busts through offensive lines, forcing running backs into his fellow defensive ends or linebackers. He’ll align in front of two experienced offensive linemen. Redshirt juniors Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson, left guard and center, respectively, are veterans and have faced Gaines before.

Jacob Breeland / Oregon TE #27 / Senior

Washington’s secondary is the best Oregon will face all season. The Ducks need someone other than wide receiver Dillon Mitchell to create space, and tight ends can provide matchup problems. They are too big for safeties or cornerbacks and too fast for linebackers. Washington has dynamic athletes on every level of the defense, but if Breeland is healthy and plays, he could find a soft spot between them. Quarterback Justin Herbert has had success throwing to tight ends throughout his career, and if he finds Breeland early, it could open the game for receivers out wide.

Ty Jones / Washington WR #20 / Sophomore

Oregon struggled to stop big wide receivers against Stanford, and Jones is Washington’s biggest. At 6-foot-4, 209 pounds, he has been the Huskies’ touchdown threat. He leads the team with four touchdown catches, which ranks sixth in the conference. Aaron Fuller is the Huskies’ volume receiver, catching 19 more passes than anyone else on the team. But Jones is an athletic, big-play guy. He had a spectacular one-handed catch against North Dakota State on a fade in the end zone. Oregon’s pass defense ranks toward the bottom of the Pac-12, so Jones could be the guy to exploit that.

Justin Hollins / Oregon OLB #11 / Senior

Oregon’s other Justin is the senior outside linebacker. He has been one of Oregon’s best defenders this season. Hollins is making the most of his senior year. He is Oregon’s sack leader and has found ways to consistently pressure the opposing quarterback. Against Cal, Hollins dropped into coverage, followed a running back to the end zone and dove to swat the ball away. He’s been all over the field, but the Ducks need him to repeat those performances against Washington. The Huskies have suffered injuries along the offensive line, forcing them to mix and match the unit. It’s an opportunity for Hollins to disrupt or sack quarterback Jake Browning. That would go a long way in stopping the most balanced offense Oregon has played.

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917

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