by Rob Moseley
The Ducks returned from a day off with a single practice to close out the second week of preseason camp.
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Situations: Some red-zone work and a late clutch situation under scrimmage-like conditions. Among the special teams periods was work for the "safe" punt return team, to guard against the threat of a fake.
Highlights: The Ducks had a little pep in their step today after getting a surprise day off Friday. "We had really good work today," head coach Mark Helfrich said. "We didn't have a great walk-through Thursday, and I challenged those guys to just operate a little more urgently, and they definitely did that this morning. And then got some quality work this afternoon; got a couple guys back 100 percent in everything, so that helped out."
Until the clutch scenario to end the day, the most interesting period for me might have been a red-zone drill with a quarterback and two receivers going against two defensive backs. Jeff Lockie had scoring passes to Blake Stanton, Keanon Lowe, Josh Huff and B.J. Kelley; Jake Rodrigues found the end zone with Stanton twice and also Kelley; and Marcus Mariota made touchdown connections with Chance Allen and Daryle Hawkins. On defense, Tyree Robinson, Erick Dargan and Reggie Daniels all had impressive pass breakups.
Among the day's other standout individual moments were Ifo Ekpre-Olomu shedding a block by essentially body-slamming a receiver; Terrance Mitchell diving to intercept a tipped pass just before it hit the turf; Hawkins clearing space for Lowe as a blocker on a screen pass; and Evan Baylis absolutely pancaking a safety on an open-field block.
Today's practice wrapped up the second of three weeks of preseason camp, with one more to go before the Ducks begin game-week preparations for facing Nicholls on Aug. 31. "You're never pleased 100 percent with where you are, because you want this guy or that group or that one play to be even better — and it's always going to be that way," Helfrich said of his big picture assessment so far. "So, not content, but pleased." The coach did say he probably won't make any public announcements about depth chart decisions or redshirt candidates during camp.
Most entertaining period: The clutch drill at the end, in which the team was split into two squads, one needing to protect a lead and one needing to come from behind. The drill was run a couple times, once with one squad protecting a two-point lead, and Matt Wogan made a 38-yard field goal to bring his side back. The other side still had a chance to turn the tables, but Tyree Robinson broke up a pass and Rahim Cassell hauled in the tipped ball to end the drill.
With the scenario changed to make it a six-point difference, the No. 1 offense ended up having to punt with time left on the clock. The twos drove down near the red zone thanks in part to the sure hands of Eric Dungy, some nice running by Kenny Bassett and a great catch of a bobbled ball by Devon Allen. But ultimately, the scenario ended without a comeback.
Other observations: The preseason camp roster, limited to 105 players until after the first game, was adjusted to provide more depth on the offensive line. Matt McFadden, who practiced with the Ducks last season, joined the team for camp, replacing receiver Jeff Bedbury. … Former UO running back Terrence Whitehead and linebacker Ramone Reed attended practice. Whitehead spent the last year working to complete his undergraduate degree at the university. Reed has been in the area coaching high school football, and currently is an assistant at nearby Springfield High. … Mariota continues to put on a daily clinic in seven-on-seven, finding open receivers and delivering accurate balls. ...
Helfrich spent some time watching individual defensive drills, and was pleased with what he saw from the inside linebackers. … I watched the secondary doing individual drills, and came away impressed by Chris Seisay's hands. … If touchbacks are what Helfrich wants to see from his kickoff unit — and he said as much the other day — then Wogan is his guy. Even when he doesn't make perfect contact, the ball ends up a few yards deep in the end zone. … Daniels got some work as a corner, and Tyree Robinson took a few reps with the first and second defense; nearly every one of the new guys has had a chance to take some reps with veterans at some point in camp, by this time.
Side note: Helfrich indicated he had a chance to visit with running backs coach Gary Campbell, whose son, Bryan, passed away Thursday. "That's such a strong family and such a great group of people," Helfrich said. "You go in the house and visit with them, and you come out better. How does that work?" Helfrich said he asked if Campbell needed anything, and the assistant responded with, "Hey, tell the team I love them."
Up next: The Ducks don't practice Sunday, but will have meetings and treatment early in the day, followed by a team BBQ.