by Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
In the wake of Tyrell Robinson's breakout performance against Utah, when he was called upon in the wake of Derrick Malone's shoulder injury, the true freshman is getting more reps with the defensive two-deep this week.
The health of veterans above him could dictate how much Robinson actually plays Saturday afternoon at Arizona. But Robinson is working to have himself ready again if needed. That means continuing to brush up on the mental side of the game. Because physically, the tools are there.
"If he knew what we were doing right now," UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said, "he could probably start."
Robinson and his twin brother, redshirting safety Tyree, have been two of the brightest spots in Oregon's 2013 recruiting class so far. Placekicker Matt Wogan has won that starting job, Cameron Hunt has started four straight games on the offense line — the first true freshman to do so for Steve Greatwood, best he can recall — and Thomas Tyner is essentially the No. 2 running back, now that De'Anthony Thomas is being used more at receiver. Torrodney Prevot has played both on special teams and as a pass-rush specialist, and tight end Johnny Mundt caught his third touchdown last week.
Tyree Robinson has been shining on the scout team, and has done so frequently. He's been one of the most consistent standouts in that regard from the class of 2013, along with linebacker Danny Mattingly and receiver Darren Carrington, among others.
In retrospect, Aliotti said, Tyree might have been capable of helping the Ducks in games this fall, too. But at this point, coaches appreciate the luxury of redshirting him, though it meant splitting the twins into different classes.
"Next spring's going to be huge for those two guys," Aliotti said. "They're really, really good athletes. I'd like to have about 30 of them."
Come April, the Ducks will have two starting safeties to replace, in Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson. The top veteran candidates will be Erick Dargan and Issac Dixon, but Reggie Daniels is a proven ballhawk — he had an interception today in seven-on — and Tyree will have a chance to push for playing time.
At inside linebacker, Malone will be back as a senior, as will Rodney Hardrick as a junior. But it's not hard to imagine Robinson and Mattingly pushing Rahim Cassell and Joe Walker for spots in the two-deep.
"They are both really talented kids — really talented," Aliotti said of the Robinsons. "They're going to have great careers here."
One lingering question at this point is the Robinsons' desire to play basketball as well as football at Oregon. UO coach Dana Altman is open to them joining his team if possible, though the Oregon men boast a strong contingent of guards that probably would be tough to crack for two freshmen who wouldn't join the team until January.
There's also the need to fit in offseason strength and conditioning for football, all without letting academics slip, factors that can be more daunting in reality than they seem in the abstract.
The Robinsons see themselves as tough, defensive-minded guards who could make an impression in basketball if the opportunity arises; they're not listed on that roster as of this point.
"Nothing's impossible," Tyrell said. "We've just got to keep God first and keep a good head on our shoulders."
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead also plans to give hoops another go this winter, after practicing with the team and redshirting last season. As usual, the Ducks have a group of sprinters who can help in track and field. And among the more intriguing potential dual-sport guys would be Mattingly; he has enough talent in baseball to potentially have an impact at this level, though there's the overlap of that season with spring football to consider.
Just another complicating factor for Ducks with dual-sport dreams. Fortunately for them, all have proven already they have bright futures in football.
Highlights: Two linebackers stood out to me during the first 11-on-11 period, a "good on good" session between the two-deep on offense and defense. Boseko Lokombo stuffed an outside run and then, on the very next play, an inside run. Later, Mattingly had three big hits on three plays, "tackling" running backs on the first and third, and banging hard into guard Hamani Stevens while filling his gap on the second. Last week I heard Mattingly's attitude described as "seek and destroy," and I'm all for him having a theme song. ...
During seven-on, Stephen Amoako broke up a pass from Marcus Mariota to Thomas, then waved a finger in the air Mutombo style. Just moments later, his twin brother, Eric, intercepted Mariota. ... The UO quarterback made up for those plays later in the period with touchdowns to Thomas and Josh Huff. ...
During red-zone drills, Mariota had touchdowns to Thomas and Mundt. And in one of the final periods of the day, center Karrington Armstrong did a nice job of pulling out and sealing a linebacker off so that Ayele Forde could get to the outside for a long gain.
Other observations: Two of the best catches of the day were by scout-team running back Lane Roseberry on deep routes. After one, which saw him stumble forward to make a diving catch, the rest of the scout offense erupted in cheers. … Carrington continues to practice fielding punts. To work on his technique — making a basket with his forearms and chest, rather than fielding punts with his hands — Carrington held a small round ball in each palm. … Tough love for Kani Benoit with the scout team, as defensive end DeForest Buckner threw the running back to the ground while trying to strip the ball out on one play. That was the "tough"; the "love" was Malone coming over to help Benoit back up off the turf.