by Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Over the last few years, those of us who cover Oregon have gotten used to head coaches being pleased with practice effort. So in that regard, Mark Helfrich's opening comment to media following the Ducks' practice late this morning and into the early afternoon wasn't all that striking.
"I love how our guys work; excellent effort," Helfrich said. "Probably our best Monday overall, and that's what you want at this point in the season, is kind of keeping everything on an uptick in all regards."
Helfrich cited the intensity of special teams drills as an example. The Ducks did some kickoff coverage drills today in which guys were going full speed and the shoulder pads were popping a bit.
But what struck me most was the lack of a qualifier Helfrich has used a bunch the last few weeks. Typically, a comment like that has been followed by something like, "we've still got some young guys we're trying to get on board, to recognize the effort we want on a daily basis." Today, Helfrich didn't go there. The season is only two games old, but the newcomers are some six weeks into the grind by now, and seem to have a better understanding of the intensity they need to bring.
Helfrich was also asked again today about the penalties that plagued the Ducks at Virginia last week. In Saturday's postgame press conference, he was very straight-forward about wanting to clean up that issue. Today, though, Helfrich said that "after watching the film, I'm a lot less concerned. There's a couple things we definitely need to clean up. (But) some of the effort-type things, those are things that are going to happen."
Examples of penalties I don't imagine Helfrich took much of an issue with would be Drew Howell's late hit, or Boseko Lokombo's questionable roughing the passer penalty. Ricky Havili-Heimuli's roughing flag was more legitimate, but that's another effort play. The retaliation incident involving Jake Fisher and De'Anthony Thomas' unsportsmanlike conduct, on the other hand, no doubt have been addressed with those guys.
One thing to keep in mind about the Ducks and penalties: Just like touchdowns and rushing yards, in recent years Oregon has piled up the penalty yards, too. Since Chip Kelly came on board in 2007, the Ducks' national rank in penalty yards per game progressed from 63rd to 101st to 96th to 100th to 110th to 117th.
Also in that time frame, Pac-12 teams have littered the bottom of the national rankings, and Saturday's crew at Virginia was indeed from the Pac-12.
So, you get why Helfrich isn't making too big a deal of the issue.
Highlights: The day began with the sort of balanced play you want to see when the ones face the ones. In FUJI to open the morning, De'Anthony Thomas busted loose for a decent gain and then on the next play was swallowed up in the backfield by Tony Washington. … I was impressed by several tough catches by young receivers over the middle over the course of the day. Chance Allen reached behind him to catch a pass from Jake Rodrigues, Darren Carrington leaped to haul in a pass thrown by Damion Hobbs while rolling out, and B.J. Kelley made a nice grab of a Marcus Mariota pass. …. Couple nice interceptions today, by Issac Dixon and Dior Mathis.
Other observations: Alejandro Maldonado has been perfect through two games, making a 29-yard kick against both Nicholls and Virginia. But today wasn't his day, with a couple missed attempts during a clutch scenario to end the afternoon. … Those attempts came with the twos, after the one defense got pass breakups from Brian Jackson and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to keep Mariota and company from even reaching field-goal range. … I was impressed with the offensive line in pass-rush drills. Usually the defenders seem to have the edge, but interior blockers Hamani Stevens, Karrington Armstrong and Hroniss Grasu consistently held their ground today.
Finally, you have to love the reaction from Thomas today after being told he was named Pac-12 player of the week for the first time. "I'm just here to make plays," he said. "That doesn't matter. It's week three, time to make some more plays."
BASKETBALL - M
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GOLF - M
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TENNIS - M
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