Shane Lemieux, Oregon’s starting left guard, has developed into one of the most dominant players in the country.
Pro Football Focus, which has graded the 6-foot-4, 317-pound redshirt junior’s film, ranks Lemieux as the Pac-12’s top offensive lineman and the nation’s No. 3 guard.
“This guy’s threshold for work is insane,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of Lemieux. “He really is a guy that I’m sure people don’t like to play against because he’s on you all day. He’s relentless, he’s not going to stop. He has endless battery, a tremendous motor.
“And honestly, he’s another guy that I think his best football is ahead of him.”
Lemieux, who grew up among Washington State fans in Yakima, Wash., discussed a variety topics this week ahead of No. 17 Oregon’s showdown with No. 7 Washington on Saturday at Autzen Stadium:
Question: Is UW week different for you?
Answer: It’s definitely different. I feel like we’re definitely more confident and we don’t expect to lose. Obviously we don’t expect to lose every single game, but this one especially, being a rivalry game. For me, I’m from Washington and I never got offered (a scholarship) by them, so that’s a big chip on my shoulder. A lot of guys are still really hurt by our (2016) season where we lost 70 to whatever. That still hurts. A lot of guys on the team, the newer guys, really don’t understand that. I think this week is really just trying to get the younger guys to really understand what happened that game and how that can never happen again. And how we’re a totally different team than we were that year and way different even than we were last year.
Question: Were you hoping to be recruited by the Huskies?
Answer: Well, I grew up in Cougar country, so my family doesn’t like UW. Washington State wasn’t very good when I was in high school. I was like, ‘I don’t know why I don’t have a UW offer,’ but I wouldn’t go there anyway.
Question: Why did you come to Oregon when your family loves Wazzu?
Answer: I want to win a national championship. No offense, but back in high school, Washington State wasn’t the team that Oregon was.
Question: Do you and Calvin (Throckmorton) talk about being the only two guys from Washington on the Oregon roster?
Answer: Yeah, I think our redshirt freshman year, even when the Huskies came here, when they were calling our names and said where we were from, I even heard boos. It’s a real deep hatred for the fans of Washington and Oregon. In the state of Washington everyone was upset that I left, especially Washington State fans, because they want to keep guys in state and everything. (Throckmorton) the same thing, and he lived five or 10 miles away from UW. He got a lot of flak for that, but I think we’re both happy with where we are and kind of embraced the rivalry and kind of hate our state for one weekend of the year.
Question: Do you think the offensive line will have to take it up a notch, even from your dominant performance against Stanford?
Answer: That’s what everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, you’ve got to come out and play like you did against Stanford.’ No, we have to play better. We’ve got to play way better than we did against Stanford. They are way better than Stanford.
Question: How much confidence does having a healthy, mature (quarterback) Justin Herbert give you guys this time?
Answer: Against Stanford everyone was asking me what it was going to be like with Herbert and what it was like playing these teams last year. We didn’t really have Herbert the last two years. I mean, Herbert obviously wasn’t there last year but freshman year he was nothing like what he is now. I said against Stanford the world is going to see what he is. I think a lot of the country started to take notice on Justin Herbert in the Stanford game and I think UW is going to see a different Oregon team, especially with Justin at the helm.
Question: Is the image of UW quarterback Jake Browning pointing at your defense while scoring a touchdown two years ago still motivation for you guys?
Answer: I remember last year it was a really big thing and it was all over the locker room. This year it’s a new team. It doesn’t have as much of an emphasis as it had last year. It’s just the way this rivalry is. Rather than looking at just that one picture of him pointing, look at the rivalry of generations of alumni who just really don’t like the Huskies and play for our past alumni. It’s not really a big thing.