by Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Among the notable periods in Wednesday's football practice, the eighth of this spring for the Ducks, was a full contact, one-on-one special teams drill that emphasized blocking on one side, and defeating blocks and tackling on the other.
There were several guys who had successful reps in both roles — Reggie Daniels, Johnny Ragin III, Rahim Cassell, Joe Walker, Torrodney Prevot and Chris Seisay were among them. Another was Oshay Dunmore, the safety-turned-linebacker who seems poised to make an impact in 2014, certainly on special teams but perhaps also on defense.
Dunmore has consistently taken reps in the defensive two-deep this spring, even getting some chances with the ones here and there. And he seems quite comfortable playing up with other veteran defenders.
"Last fall was kind of the adjustment period," said Dunmore, who redshirted at defensive back in 2012 before moving up to outside linebacker last fall. "Now it's just about building confidence. Last year was learning my position, learning the technique. Now it's about mastering it.
"I'm just getting more and more comfortable — the game is slowing down, and now it's about making the plays that come my way."
Dunmore is in the mix with Tony Washington, Christian French, Tyson Coleman, Prevot and Cody Carriger at the SAM linebacker and drop end spots. (At last check, Ragin was still hoping to be eligible this season after transferring from Cal, but I haven't heard anything final on that.)
That group is being coached this season by Erik Chinander. He had worked with the likes of Washington and Coleman while a graduate assistant with the Ducks in 2012, but Dunmore was a safety back then, so the two are working together for the first time this month.
"He's just a great effort guy," Chinander said. "Sometimes he doesn't know exactly what's going on, but he's doing a nice job with the film study and in the meeting room. He's a smart kid, and he wants to know stuff. He's very eager to learn and he'll give you everything he's got out there, which is good."
The learning process is ongoing; in pass-rush drills Monday, Cameron Hunt put Dunmore on his back during one rep. But Dunmore's speed is an asset in those situations, and he put it to use to win some other reps during the period.
"He's going to get bigger," Chinander said. "We'll play him out in space a little more than we will the line of scrimmage, but he's got the tools. It's just different; he's been out in space his whole life, and now he's got to come down to the line of scrimmage. It's a different deal, but he's working, and he'll get it."
Dunmore said he has enjoyed working with Chinander as well.
"He's awesome," Dunmore said. "He knows how to break it down into language where everybody can understand, and if not you can go in one-on-one. I feel like I can approach him any way — texting, calling, in-person. He's making us better."
For Dunmore, perhaps so much better that he'll make the Ducks' regular rotation up front in the fall.
Highlights: In the team period to jump-start the day, Thomas Tyner had a nice run to get the ball inside the 10, and Marcus Mariota finished the drive with a rushing touchdown. Cassell made a tackle to give the defense a "win" when the twos were up, and Mariota hooked up with Dwayne Stanford for a passing touchdown with the ones back on the field. … During 7-on, Chance Allen split double coverage to grab a deep ball from Mariota, who had another pass broken up by Erick Dargan during the period. ….
Tyner and Mariota had rushing touchdowns during a red-zone scenario, and Daniels — who played alongside Dargan as the No. 1 safety tandem today — broke up a pass in the end zone. Mariota's touchdown was set up by a Kenny Bassett run on a pitch, after which Mariota got upfield and set a block on a linebacker. … Juwaan Williams intercepted a pass with the twos during a team period.
Other observations: Mark Helfrich told the team after practice that it was, start to finish, the best of the spring so far. "If that's the standard, we're going places," he said, and therein lies the challenge, of course. "Every period, we competed — which they have been," Helfrich said later. "But the give and take of spring ball took effect. The defense would win a situation, and then the offense would come back. Collectively, everybody kind of surged." … The former starting linebacker tandem of Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay was on hand and watched practice. "I know there's days when you guys don't want to practice," Alonso told the team in the post-practice huddle, "but honestly there's nothing like it. Cherish it." ...
Sam Kamp, Arik Armstead and Andre Yruretagoyena each won a couple reps during pass-rush drills. Kamp had a "what-if-it-were-live?" moment earlier in the day when he got into the backfield on a Tyner run. Tyner spun away and broke free as the play was blown dead; what would have happened had the drill been full contact? … Bassett was a standout throughout the day, during both passing and rushing periods. There's a lot of depth at running back, and it will be a tough rotation to crack, but he looked good today. On the other side of the ball, I thought Walker really jumped out, both in those special teams drills and with several run stops defensively. … Taylor Alie looks like a candidate to be the holder on placekicks this season.