by Rob Moseley
It's Monday on your calendar, but this was a Tuesday practice for the Ducks, meaning full pads.
Venue: Grass practice fields
Format: Full pads
Having spent the weekend getting my rear end kicked by legs 5/17/29 of Hood to Coast, this was my first chance to see the Ducks since the depth chart was set and scout-team players were designated late last week. And the change was striking.
For the three weeks of preseason camp, it was tough to get a gauge on where the Ducks were at. If the offense was struggling, was that a red flag, or just a sign of a great defense? Every big play, whether a breakaway run by Byron Marshall or an interception by Dior Mathis, was a good news/bad news situation.
As of this week that has changed. Nearly every 11-on-11 situation features the starters or primary backups going against scout-team guys. There's more separation there, in terms of experience, and it shows. The offense is more efficient. The defense is like a swarming pack of hyenas. It's suddenly very easy to see why this is considered a preseason top-five team.
Highlights: The one chance for the ones to go head-to-head was FUJI to start the day, and Marcus Mariota marched the offense down the field, connecting with Josh Huff for a long completion to cap the drive. Marshall showed off his burst running between the tackles when the twos took the field. Mariota connected with De'Anthony Thomas for a long completion in a later team period, a rare misstep for the defense on this day.
A guy who stood out in particular was Erick Dargan; a starter late last season, Dargan is listed as a backup now that Avery Patterson is back, but Dargan isn't sulking. He made an explosive break on the ball to foil a pass during position drills, and later even took a rep as a scout in seven-on-seven. Tyson Coleman had a rep that showed off his improved comfort level at inside linebacker, blasting through the line and forcing a back to jump outside, into the arms of another defender.
Other observations: Both Matt Wogan and Alejandro Maldonado made medium-range field goals to cap off the day. It'll be very interesting to see how placekicks are handled Saturday. ... One spot on the two-deep that might be more fluid than it seems is backup safety, between Reggie Daniels and Issac Dixon. ... Kani Benoit looked like he's ready and willing to give the defense a good look with the scout team this fall. Ran hard today.
But it was another scout-team running back, Lane Roseberry, who was called up to join Mark Helfrich in the post-practice huddle. Roseberry, a redshirt freshman from Bly who worked his way back from a knee injury last fall, was told he's secured himself a spot on the travel squad for the Ducks' game at Virginia next week, because of the effort he's put forth in practice this month.
"Every scout-team situation, he's always the first to volunteer and always takes the most reps," Helfrich said. "He's just the consummate teammate."
For example, Roseberry today took 12 straight reps with the scout kickoff return team. More common is for a guy to take three or four in a row, tops, or even alternate reps with another player.
Notably, this wasn't the first time Roseberry has been specifically lauded by Helfrich in the post-practice huddle.
"It means everything, being a walk-on from a small school, to be mentioned like that," Roseberry said. "I really appreciate it when he does that, and he does it quite often.
"I just try to stay quiet, not talk back to coaches or players, do what I can to the fullest and go hard."