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  • UO lineman will face good buddy

  • When he gets to midfield for the opening coin toss Saturday in Autzen Stadium, Ryan Clanton plans to apply a crushing grip to the hand of one of his opposing team captains.
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  • When he gets to midfield for the opening coin toss Saturday in Autzen Stadium, Ryan Clanton plans to apply a crushing grip to the hand of one of his opposing team captains.
    Next he'll spit out something cryptic, in hopes of messing with the guy's mind.
    "Then I'll try to spook him out, maybe go cross-eyed or something," Clanton said.
    All in good fun, of course. Clanton, a UO senior offensive guard, will be one of the Ducks' captains Saturday against Fresno State, whose quarterback is Clanton's close friend and former high school teammate, Derek Carr.
    "It's going to be fun," Clanton said. "Like playing against a brother."
    Saturday's game will have huge meaning for Clanton, in all sorts of ways. Besides facing off against his friend, he'll have a bunch of family, friends and former high school coaches in the stands watching.
    Clanton will be facing a Fresno State team he once seriously considered joining, before heading off to junior college and then becoming a Duck. And, of course, he'll be making his second straight start on the UO offensive line after emerging this offseason as one of Oregon's mainstays up front.
    "I'm hyped up, so excited," Clanton said. "I'm going to be going crazy Saturday."
    Clanton, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound native of Bakersfield, Calif., has thrived since finding a home at guard. He played both tackle and guard on the left side of Oregon's line to open 2011 but has been entrenched at left guard since the spring, with senior incumbent starter Carson York recovering from a knee injury.
    "Ryan has really stepped up his game," UO offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said.
    While Clanton isn't as athletic as the tackles who rotate in the spot to his left, Tyler Johnstone and Kyle Long, he's in contention with sophomore guard Hamani Stevens for the title of strongest man on the Oregon offensive line.
    Clanton set a team best by bench-pressing 450 pounds this summer, saying that "if I could set up a bed in the gym, I would," after working out twice a day — with a break for church on Sundays, he noted.
    "He's got the ability to take those big defensive tackles and hold his own and get some push," Greatwood said.
    "He's a physical kid, good size. But really, his intelligence and picking up the game have been what's impressed me the most."
    Clanton has developed into a leader, too, over the past year, setting the tone with his effort in the weight room and his willingness to play any role on the line.
    He might fit best at guard, he admits, "but I'd even play center if that's what we needed."
    York said Clanton is one of the keys to Oregon's team chemistry on the line. After redshirting in 2010, he bonded with Oregon's other unproven linemen when a five-player recruiting class enrolled last fall. But as one of the older players on the team, Clanton also can relate to Oregon's veterans.
    "It's fairly unusual for a junior college guy to assume that role; they can be a little more transient than other guys," Greatwood said. "But he's come in and been able to transcend different groups, and not just with our guys but throughout the team."
    It was that kind of friendly nature that led to Clanton's welcoming Carr to Bakersfield when the latter's family moved there. Clanton was a high school senior at Bakersfield Christian, Carr a year younger, but football brought them together, amid a group of like-minded guys, two others of which are now Clanton's roommates after injuries derailed their plans to play at Fresno State.
    The Bulldogs, who play only about 100 miles from Bakersfield, were the team most interested in signing Clanton out of high school. But he ended up enrolling at City College of San Francisco, which also produced former UO players Jeremiah Masoli, Matthew Harper and Blake Ferras.
    So, rather than becoming teammates in college, Clanton and Carr will be on opposing sidelines Saturday.
    But first they'll be at midfield for the coin toss, something Clanton calls "a huge honor."
    It's also a chance to mess with Carr; Clanton hit up Carr's dad this week, trolling for some material to get under the quarterback's skin. The two players have also been in touch as the game approaches.
    "If he was a linebacker, I wouldn't say a word to him," Clanton said. "And then, first play of the game, I'd try to kill him — even though we're friends — because that's what competitors do."
    Since both play offense, there's little chance of such a meeting. And so they'll shake hands before kickoff, although "after the game, it's going to be fun," Clanton said.
    Particularly if Clanton and the Ducks can play as well as they did in their opener.
    "Not taking anything away from Arkansas State — they're a great team and they competed well — but we prepared really well the whole week of practice," Clanton said. "We were ready for whatever they threw at us."
    If Clanton has his way, Carr won't be nearly so prepared for what he's going to experience before the coin flip this week.
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