by Rob Moseley
EUGENE, Ore. — It's tempting to think of the 18 incoming freshmen to the Oregon football team, all of whom participated in the Ducks' summer workouts that end this week, as having a dramatic head start when preseason camp begins Aug. 5.
Those players who were in the same situation a year ago know a more nuanced truth.
"It can kind of introduce you, but it's just easier to get into the offense (once camp begins) and run it and mess up a couple times, and learn what you're supposed to do," said sophomore running back Byron Marshall, who entered the program a year ago. "Once camp starts we're going to hit the ground sprinting" — this is Oregon, after all, so yes he said sprinting rather than running — "so it's going to be different for them. There's really not much you can do to prepare.
"After a while they'll get used to it, but for me it was different for at least the first couple days."
For fans, the focus on summer workouts tends to be Oregon's voluntary 7-on-7 sessions, a misnomer these days in that linemen also participate, though the terminology has stuck. But it's the strength and conditioning sessions with coach Jim Radcliffe that are the players' primary focus in June and July.
The freshman class is often split off on its own, for the sake of class chemistry. It's only a couple times a week that they join the veterans for conditioning, and sometimes their workouts with Radcliffe keep them from participating in 7-on-7.
Drop end Cody Carriger, who redshirted in 2012, said it's incumbent upon the newcomers to ask questions of veterans in their limited exposure to the full team. His own mentors included Dion Jordan, the third pick in this year's NFL draft, and Tony Washington, who is expected to move up into Jordan's role this fall.
"They want to know that you care enough to come up and ask them," Carriger said. "That you want to be important, that you want to be part of this team. It's a freshman's job to go get them, but at the same time it's (the veterans') job, if the freshman ask, to help until they get it."
"They come up and ask questions when they have time to come over," Marshall said. "They'll run the wrong thing and mess up, and we'll come over and say, 'You're supposed to do this instead of that.' They'll listen and they're pretty responsive."
As of yet, none of the incoming freshmen looks slated for Carriger's drop end spot. But he's been able to watch Torrodney Prevot, who plays the similar SAM linebacker position.
"He's active," Carriger said. "He's an enthusiastic kid. He likes to have fun. He gets a little ahead of himself sometimes; you catch him trying to do too much. You say, 'Hey, man, you don't have to do that. You're a teammate of ours, a brother, we love you, you don't have to do that. You have time, you're a freshman.' "
Marshall said that's a temptation a lot of newcomers can succumb to — being so eager to impress their new teammates that they do too much, rather than sticking to the script. One luxury of being a second-year player, Carriger said, is that he's comfortable enough with the system that he can cut it loose while also playing within the confines of the scheme.
"I can basically come out here and bust my butt every day, cut it loose," he said. "In 7-on-7, now that I know our system, it's time to fly around and have fun. And then conditioning starts, and that's the time to get better."