by Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
The back sporting a No. 25 jersey in Arizona blue plunged into the line Tuesday morning, only to be swallowed up by UO defensive linemen Taylor Hart and Alex Balducci. The back in question was Kani Benoit, with Oregon's scout-team offense, but the Ducks hope to see more of the same Saturday against the real No. 25 for the Wildcats, Ka'Deem Carey.
The key to slowing down the nation's second-leading rusher? "Gang tackle," UO coach Mark Helfrich said.
The Ducks must be careful not to cheat, Helfrich cautioned; the defender charged with covering Arizona QB B.J. Denker has to focus on that responsibility. But once the UO defense is sure Carey is running with the football, it's time to rally to the ballcarrier.
"If we stop the run — stop Ka'Deem, stop the quarterback — that'll go a long way toward us having success in the game," UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.
Carey, a Doak Walker, Maxwell and Walter Camp award semifinalist, is the nation's second-leading rusher at 150.3 yards per game. He's up from 148.4 yards per game a year ago, though that total led the country.
Whatever the numbers say, Aliotti doubts there's anyone better in all of college football.
"I'm not saying that because we're playing them this week; he's really good," Aliotti said. "He can hit it up there fast, he's shifty, he can bounce it outside, he can change direction — not only is he a strong inside rusher, he can make you miss in space. He's as good a back as there is in the country."
But as both Helfrich and Aliotti noted, the Ducks can't entirely focus their efforts on Carey.
There's the pass to respect as well, obviously. And Denker is the team's second-leading rusher, with 709 yards and 11 touchdowns — one fewer than Carey.
"I don't like that," Aliotti said. "He's fast. He's good."
Aliotti said the Ducks won't do anything special on defense to stop Carey this week, and you can understand why. Oregon held Carey to 79 yards in beating Arizona 49-0 last season, one of just three times in the last two season Carey failed to reach 100 yards.
But there's pressure on the Ducks internally, too. Starting WILL linebacker Derrick Malone left last week's win over Utah with a shoulder injury, and Joe Walker played sparingly. Tyrell Robinson stepped up to fill the void along with Rodney Hardrick and Rahim Cassell, but the Ducks would benefit greatly from a quick return by Malone.
For what it's worth, if the injury situation got worse, rather than better, freshman Danny Mattingly could potentially be the "next man up." By this point in the season, however, the preference would be to allow him to take a redshirt unless there's an emergency.
Highlights: It was one of those days for Marcus Mariota, who had a number of beautiful touchdown passes over the course of the morning. The best might have been one thrown on the run, rolling to his right, to a wide-open Bralon Addison over the middle. … But it wasn't a perfect morning for Mariota, who was intercepted by Terrance Mitchell early in the day. … Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner looked particularly explosive in rushing drills, De'Anthony Thomas took the first rep in kickoff return drills to the house, and pass-rush drills featured dominant reps by Jake Fisher, Hroniss Grasu and Ricky Havili-Heimuli.
Other observations: Matt Wogan was 1-of-2 in clutch situations today, making a kick of about 46 yards to start practice, but missing one from about the same distance at the end. … Redshirting receiver Devon Allen, a prep track star, is very explosive off the line, as you might expect. … Among the young guys in pass-rush drills, Evan Voeller, Doug Brenner and T.J. Daniel all won reps.