By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
While most of the Oregon football team is grinding through the dog days of preseason camp, for at least one Duck there’s a sense of newness still.
Defensive tackle Austin Maloata’s participation in camp was delayed until last week, and he was in full pads for the first time this afternoon. He had a great battle with all-American center Hroniss Grasu in pass-rush drills, and got good penetration on a few other reps throughout the day, including one on which he helped force an incompletion during the final 11-on-11 period of the afternoon.
Maloata said his first few days of camp last week were a transition, but with help from veterans he’s beginning to feel more comfortable.
“Most of the guys are ahead of me in (knowing) the plays,” Maloata said. “So I’m just trying to learn as much as I can. … But all the ‘D’ is helping me out. They help me know what I’ve got to do.”
Maloata moved to the United States from American Samoa for his senior year of high school, and played defensive end around 245 pounds. He was signed by the Ducks as a tackle, and is up over 300 pounds at this point.
Wanting to maintain his quickness, Maloata is doing some extra conditioning work, such as riding a stationary bike after Monday afternoon’s practice – Oregon’s second of the day. But if his work in drills is any indication, the big freshman still moves very well at his size.
“I’m trying to get used to the running and the tempo,” he said. “But so far, so good.”
Highlights: The last team period of the afternoon provided a chance for the offense to drive the length of the field, a little preview of what’s to come in Thursday’s scrimmage. The No. 1 offense was able to grind out a long scoring drive that ended in a Marcus Mariota touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe. Royce Freeman had a couple nice runs, but also got bottled up a couple times -- by Tyson Coleman and the tandem of Joe Walker and Arik Armstead – during the very competitive possession. The defense held when the twos and threes were on the field.
The afternoon began with a series of fourth-down attempts. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu broke up a pass with the ones, and Jeff Lockie threw incomplete with the twos under pressure from Torrodney Prevot and Grant Thompson. The momentum shifted when Kani Benoit ran for a long gain, which was followed by a Mariota completion to Devon Allen and a Kenny Bassett run that featured a nice cut to elude Stetzon Bair in the backfield.
Other observations: Morgan Mahalak threw a couple TD passes in 1-on-1 drills in the red zone, while Tyree Robinson had an interception. Ekpre-Olomu, Juwaan Williams and Glen Ihenacho had pass breakups that caught my eye. Casey Eugenio made a nifty one-handed catch. … Lockie and Charles Nelson showed good chemistry during 7-on-7, connecting three times in a stretch of four plays. … Jake McCreath, who nearly had a great leaping TD catch this morning, used his size to go up and get a couple balls over the course of this afternoon. He’s a big target who apparently has pretty soft hands. … Eddie Heard picked off a ball in a team period. … Prevot and Christian French opened up pass-rush drills by winning reps, but later the offense evened the score when Tyrell Crosby locked up Prevot and Jake Fisher stymied French.