By Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
Early in Tuesday’s practice, scout-team quarterback Damion Hobbs – wearing the No. 17 powder-blue jersey of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley – tucked the ball and looked to run. No sooner had he made the decision than were all three of Oregon’s starting defensive linemen closing in, the trio of DeForest Buckner, Wade Keliikipi and Taylor Hart enveloping Hobbs after blowing past the offensive line.
Later in the day, during passing drills, Keliikipi and Hart again broke through the line almost immediately, this time flanked by Tony Washington. The scout-team quarterback again had no chance.
Clearly, Oregon’s defensive line looks keyed up for Saturday’s matchup against the Bruins. But how are their preparations affected by a UCLA offensive line that is in a state of flux due to injuries?
For two games now, since second-year starting tackle Torian White was injured, UCLA has started a true freshman tandem for the first time in school history, with guard Alex Redmond and new tackle Caleb Benenoch on the right side. Then, left tackle Simon Goines – another second-year stater – was hurt last week against Stanford, as was his replacement, Conor McDermott.
UCLA coach Jim Mora told reporters Tuesday that McDermott is out with a shoulder injury, but that he’s hopeful Goines can play despite his knee issue.
“Especially this time of the year, people are banged up; it happens with everybody,” Hart said. “You never really know who’s going to start. You see them on film and you’ve just got to prepare for their best.”
In their free time, Oregon’s defensive linemen do what they can to scout individual tendencies in offensive linemen. They’ll try to discern if a blocker is giving away whether a run play or pass play is coming, by how he sets up before the snap, Hart said. After the snap, they’ll gauge his “get-off” time, and the speed of his back-pedal on pass plays, and how high or low he strikes with his hands, to decide which pass-rush moves might be most effective, Buckner added.
The defensive linemen will share what they’ve noticed with each other, and position coach Ron Aiken will do the same. But when the linemen meet as a group, those individual tendencies aren’t the focus.
“We’re aware of who’s been in and out of the offensive line lineup,” Aiken said. “But more than anything, we’re looking at scheme – what they do as far as blocking.”
That means looking at what the Bruins want to do, not on who specifically will be doing it.
The Bruins experienced their struggles last week, against a stout Stanford defensive front. UCLA committed four false-start penalties, and gave up four sacks.
But given their quarterback’s mobility, UO coach Mark Helfrich said, “Hundley is the type of guy that can work with that.”
Like Washington’s Keith Price, Hundley isn’t quite as fast as Oregon’s own Marcus Mariota. But like Price, Hundley can hurt a defense on the run if required.
“This guy’s bigger and thicker,” UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “You really have to wrap up to bring him down.”
Highlights: Mariota put on his usual display during seven-on-seven, and showed off how well he checks through his progression. Keeping in mind there’s no pass rush in these situations, Mariota took the time on one rep to look around and notice Daryle Hawkins running free against busted coverage, then passed to him for the touchdown. Moments later, Mariota found Josh Huff being defended by a scout-team linebacker, and rifled another completion. Oregon’s starting quarterback also had a touchdown pass to Chance Allen during the period.
The scout-team defense made some plays of its own during the seven-on-seven session, though, notably an interception by Stephen Amoako off a backup quarterback. On the defensive field, Joe Walker and Tyrell Robinson came up with interceptions on back-to-back plays, with Robinson able to avoid traffic and break away for a probable pick-six.
Other observations: Robinson’s interception highlighted what overall was a very good day. He got more reps than usual with the No. 2 defense, and seemed energized by it, flying in to stop a scout-team back on an early run play and later disrupting a passing rep with his pursuit of the quarterback. … Darren Carrington is another guy who impressed me a few times this morning, at one point leaping into the air to slow himself up, then reaching back to haul in a pass thrown behind him. I don’t have a great sense of his other skills, which are imperative for an Oregon receiver, but the dude’s ball skills are first rate. …
Jeff Lockie caught my eye on two plays. One was a run, on which it struck me that he’s more explosive in that situation than people give him credit for. Later on, he was rolling to his left under pressure but still managed to square up and loft a pass over the secondary, which Blake Stanton reached out and hauled in for a touchdown. … You make plays in games by preparing yourself to do so in practice, which Terrance Mitchell illustrated by flying in to break up a screen pass, as he did on an interception at Colorado and on a pass breakup against WSU last week. … Helfrich discussed the BCS with his team after practice, sort off, telling them that “Our BCS is ‘Bruins Come Saturday.’”