Sixth-year seniors Steven Jones, Junior Angilau competing at right guard job for Oregon Ducks

Published Aug. 26, 2023, 5:40 p.m.
By James Crepea
Right guard is the one position on the offensive line where Oregon does not have to replace a starter. Yet the Ducks added competition anyway, bringing in Junior Angilau from Texas to contend with Steven Jones for the job.
Through fall camp, the 6-foot-5, 340 pound Jones appears to have maintained the spot he’s held for much of the past two seasons when he’s been healthy.
“He’s attacked it every single day,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. “The good thing about Steve is he provided some position flexibility. He’s been at tackle. He’s been a guard, maybe not as much as seen in games, but we’ve been able to move around at different spots in practice. He has great experience, but he’s done a good job.”
Jones, Oregon’s lone senior on offense to spend the entirety of his career at UO, has started 19 games over the past five seasons. One of just 12 players remaining for the 2019 Rose Bowl team, Jones is one of the few who can bridge the gap between that team’s offensive line, last year’s unit and a reloading group this season.
“We had a culture at that time that forced everyone to uphold the standard of playing for the team,” Jones said of the 2019 team. “Playing with a lot of selfless players on both sides of the ball is I think what really helped us have a lot of success that season. ... Being the oldest naturally a lot of guys look up to me and look to me to see what the standard is and how to go about the everyday process of being a collegiate athlete. I take pride in that and I’ve been trying to take the most pride in that throughout the whole entire season to make sure everybody else is ready. Not only in just my position group but the whole entire team.”
Jones has had to compete for a job throughout his career.
Initially filling in for an injured Penei Sewell in 2018 until a concussion ended his freshman season, Jones redshirted in 2019, played all of 2020 and started in place of an injured Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu in the Fiesta Bowl, started 13 of 14 games in 2021 and opened last season as the starting right guard before an injury knocked him out for two months. He’s had to fend off competition from Angilau, who started 34 games over four seasons while at Texas before missing last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“When he came in, looking how messed up he was and seeing that fire in him, he has that drive to want to keep on going even when he barely can,” Jones said. “I have a lot of respect for that man because if you want to know the definition of toughness, he’s the definition when you look it up in the book because that man, you can see it in him, he’s going through a lot but he’s always pushing through.”
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Angilau was limited in the spring but is back to near full strength.
“I kept telling all the guys, ‘I can’t wait to run with you guys,’” Angilau said. “They’re like, ‘Run? You want to play football.’ I was like ‘No, I just want to run with you guys’ because when you go through the grind with your brothers, that’s when it really matters. I told them I can’t wait till somebody hits me. I’ve been waiting for someone to decleat me, then I’ll feel like I was back. That hasn’t happened yet but I do feel like I’m back. I feel like I’m 100% and I’m ready. I’m so excited.”
Angilau’s brute strength makes him a mauler on the line. He said his max bench press is 500 pounds and that if called upon he could do over 40 reps of 225 pounds, the weight used at the NFL Combine.
The Ducks added significant experience and competition on the interior offensive line by bringing in Angilau and Nishad Strother this offseason to compete at the two guard spots.
“It creates more competition for us for sure and you want to be healthy up front,” Lanning said. “At some point you’re going to have some other guys that are going to be involved in the threshold for us being able to play and both those guys are guys that are going to push to be playing a lot. Having those guys out there create great competition and make our team better.”
Angilau could have stayed at Texas and competed to regain the starting job he held for multiple years. Instead he came to UO, closer to his home in Utah and to join his cousin and former high school teammate Oregon defensive tackle Taki Taimani.
Angilau said he welcomes having to compete and is relying on hard work, dedication and discipline to earn playing time.
”You got to have confidence in yourself that no matter what you do you’re going to do it better,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s anybody against you. Even if they brought in someone from the NFL to come in I would love it, because I can learn from them, Like oh he does it that way, I’ll do it that way too. If I do it that way and it doesn’t work out for me because he has a different set of skills, a different body type then I’ll just find a way.”
Only one of two sixth-year seniors will start, unless the absence of Strother and center Jackson Powers-Johnson creates more drastic movement. That recent predicament speaks to the coaching staff’s thought process in adding the veteran transfers in the first place, and underscores the importance of the new starting group to develop chemistry before the season.
“Five as one is something we always say before every single play and five as one means that we’re all playing together,” Jones said. “The biggest thing in my mindset is make sure that I’m ready, make sure I know the whole entire scheme offensively and make sure that my teammates next to me know the scheme so we can protect whoever is behind us.”

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