By Rob Moseley
Venue: Autzen Stadium
Format: Fast Friday
From the start of Friday’s practice, the last for the Ducks before facing South Dakota on Saturday in Autzen Stadium (7:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks), Grant Thompson was setting the tone.
While the focus of the practice is running through various packages and scenarios on offense, defense and special teams to be employed against the Coyotes, Fridays also include a period of positional drills and then a brief scrimmage for players who spent the week on the scout team. As the linebackers broke off for drills, Thompson showed them how to navigate a maze of pads with proper footwork.
Once the scrimmage period started, Thompson had a big hit to break up a pass. On the last rep of the period, the former walk-on who recently earned a scholarship made the tackle.
But it was Thompson’s work earlier in the week, while taking reps against the UO offense, that stood out most to graduate assistant coach Joe Bernardi, who coordinates the scout-team offense. Thompson and Isaac Ava, another senior inside linebacker who walked on with the Ducks, set the tone in the first week of the season in which scout teams were designated.
“They do everything right, and show the young guys how vital the scout team is to our success,” Bernardi said.
It’s a responsibility Thompson takes seriously, and has for several years – following in the footsteps of his older brother, father and grandfather. “You want to set the bar high; ideally you want our scout-team defense to be better than the actual defense they’re going to see on Saturday,” Thompson said. "Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, because they have a lot of good athletes. But you really have to set the tone.”
Thompson said play on the scout-team defense “started a little slow” this week as newcomers adjusted to the role. “But as the week progressed, they saw what it took,” Thompson said.
Prior to the first game of the season, rosters are limited to 105 players. Reinforcements are on the way as of Monday, but for this week the scout team had to persevere with limited depth, during what will be one of the hottest weeks of the regular season in Eugene.
“Sometimes it’s hard,” Thompson said. “But it helps you win games. And that’s what’s important.”
Scout-team scrimmage highlights: Kani Benoit had a couple nice runs to start the morning, and Jimmie Swain was in on a couple of tackles right off the bat. … Casey Eugenio took a screen pass from Morgan Mahalak and side-stepped a safety for a nice gain, and later on Eugenio made a one-handed grab of a deeper ball from Ty Griffin. … Jalen Jelks had a sack, while Ava and Jordan Kurahara made run stops near the line of scrimmage. … Mahalak and B.J. Kelley were about to connect on a long completion until Arrion Springs showed off impressive closing speed by swooping in to break up the pass.