Spring Ball Week 1
Sunday, April 5, 7:30 a.m. PT
The first week of spring football practice flew by. Maybe that's because the three scheduled workouts took place over four days, but I'm beginning to think the reason involves the fact that the pace of Oregon's two-hour sessions is warp speed.
There were several things that stood out for one reason or another during Week 1. In no particular order...
- First-year head coach Chip Kelly was clearly in charge, but his on-field coaching duties during practice were not much different than they were during his two-year tenure as offensive coordinator. If matters arose that merited the attention of the head coach, he dealt with them swiftly and decisively.
- Much has been made in cyberspace and elsewhere about the Ducks' relative inexperience on the offensive and defensive lines, but if you had just walked in off the street to watch a little practice and knew nothing about UO's personnel, I'm not convinced the savvy observer would have noticed the apparent lack of depth in those units. Along the defensive trenches, potential new starters Brandon Bair and Blake Ferras are doing a consistent job (IMO) against the run. With bookends of Will Tukuafu and Kenny Rowe, the group is very athletic. And after watching new position coach Jerry Azzinaro in action for a couple of days, its clear the D-Line will be nothing if not constantly active after the snap this season. On the offensive line, Darrion Weems is seeing plenty of time at left tackle and Carson York and Nick Cody are also earning valuable experience at guard and tackle, respectively. York has also started snapping the ball this spring. I get the sense that the experience that UO does have on the O-Line is underappreciated. Jordan Holmes, C.E. Kaiser, Bo Thran and Mark Asper were all key contributers to last year's record rushing attack.
- This time last year, Oregon's passing game was in disarray. Anyone remember its culmination in the 2008 Spring Game? Yikes. This spring, not so much. With Jeremiah Masoli, Justin Roper, Darron Thomas and Nate Costa all slinging it, the ratio of oohs to groans is at least 10 to 1 compared to the opposite in '08.
- Walter Thurmond III must have grown some wings in the offseason because he was flying all over the field this week. Considering that he was hampered by injury most of last season - and still led the Pac-10 in picks and jump-started the Holiday Bowl comeback with that 91-yard kickoff return after halftime - a healthy, senior version of WTIII could be an absolute menace to opposing offenses next fall.
- Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd are just weeks away from officially joining the NFL and both were on campus this week. Byrd had a combine-style workout in front of 26 NFL scouts on Thursday, while Chung nearly cost the defense a win during Friday's head-to-head competition against the offense for arguing calls while watching from the sideline. As a reward for winning the points-based game, the defense will trade in their green practice jerseys for black ones on Monday.
Jairus Byrd performs a standing broad jump for a group of pro scouts.
- Max Unger dropped in to watch practice on Wednesday and Friday and said he has been working out with Nick Reed since returning to Eugene after the combine. By most expert accounts, he's still on target to be the first Duck taken in the NFL Draft April 25.
- Injury Notes: LeGarrette Blount (foot) began the week on crutches and was in a walking boot by the end of it. He's day-to-day at this point ... Titus Jackson injured his knee during Wednesday's workout. He'll likely miss significant time this spring, but said tests for ligament damage were negative, which is good news ... Other players wearing red jerseys (signifying non contact) at various times last week included Willie Glasper, LaMichael James, Talmadge Jackson III, Kaiser and Thran.
The Ducks will repeat the three-day-a-week drill for four more weeks, resuming Monday morning at 8:30 a.m.
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