By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Today’s practice was Oregon’s third of the spring, and first in full pads. You’d assume that would mean a step up in intensity, with the extra padding freeing guys up to fly around a little faster, hit a little harder.
There was plenty of that today, certainly. But it wasn’t that much different from Wednesday, players generally agreed, because they’d had such an unusually physical – at times even a little testy – workout in helmets, jerseys and shorts two days earlier.
“It was physical, very physical,” new D lineman Tui Talia said following Friday’s practice. “But other than that it was kind of the same. We were going like full-go without pads this whole week. So it was kind of the same, just a little more intense.”
The presence of shoulder pads and football pants made for more physical pass-rush drills between the linemen, and more physical play at the second level during team drills. Talia put his size and athleticism to use winning a couple one-on-one battles in pass rush, and Keanon Lowe set a downfield block on Ifo Ekpre-Olomu that freed Byron Marshall for a long run on a screen pass during team drills, the sorts of plays you may or may not have seen without full pads.
“When you get the pads on, it’s the same things between the O line and D line, but what happens is, the linebackers are a lot more active – coming a lot more downhill, really hitting you,” sophomore guard Cameron Hunt said. “So it was good work to get that, to get us moving our feet in more game-like action.”
One of those linebackers, Rodney Hardrick, said the Ducks were “really good out there” today, and that “the defense had a lot of intensity.” But he agreed that Wednesday’s practice had been a tone-setter.
“That’s just our new standard,” said Hardrick, who had a tackle for loss during team drills today. “We’ve taken a different attitude, a different approach to this. We’re going to be more physical this year, and it’s showing already.”
Highlights: The day ended with a red-zone drill, and on the first two plays, Marshall and Marcus Mariota ran for touchdowns. Among the defensive highlights was end T.J. Daniel swatting down a pass at the line of scrimmage. … B.J. Kelley was the standout of an early 7-on-7 period. He got behind the defense for a long completion from Mariota. But speed has never been a question with Kelley. Perhaps more encouraging were a couple of tough catches he made on shorter routes near the sidelines. …
Marshall juked a linebacker pretty hard for a long run during an early team period. That period also included an Arik Armstead tackle behind the line of scrimmage, an Erick Dargan interception and two Tony Washington stops on run plays.
Other observations: The Ducks hosted a coaches clinic Thursday and Friday, with about 100 or so coaches attending Friday’s practice, among them Hillsboro assistant and former UO defensive lineman Cole Linehan. Also in attendance was Edgar Fernandez, the offensive line coach for the University of Cancun. No, seriously. I’m applying for a job covering them ASAP. … I thought the passing game was noticeably sharper today. Just took a couple days earlier in the week to shake off winter rust. …
During punts drills early in the day, the guys back to receive were Bralon Addison, Darren Carrington, Ekpre-Olomu and Dargan. … Christian French showed off his quickness in pass-rush drills. He continues to get reps with the ones at SAM linebacker. … Evan Voeller held his own against Armstead in pass rush, another sign the light’s turning on a little bit for the in-state redshirt freshman. …
Haniteli Lousi continues to come along; once he gets the offense down and his conditioning where it needs to be, we’ll see if he can push Hamani Stevens and Hunt at the guard spots. For his part, Hunt is feeling much more comfortable this spring after being thrown into the fire as a true freshman last fall. “Last year, my main thing was to learn the plays,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t really worried about technique or stuff like that. Now I know everything, so I can just focus on my technique, which is going to make me a lot better.” …
Centers Hroniss Grasu, Doug Brenner and Jake Pisarcik were three of the last guys off the field, after the two young guys asked Grasu to stay late and give them some pointers. Brenner is the backup to Grasu at this point, and Pisarcik is learning the position this spring. “They want to work, and they want to get better,” Grasu said. “That’s all I can ask for from them, that they want to get better, do whatever it takes to get better and ask questions. It makes me happy seeing them want to get some extra work in.”