By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Like the other Michigan native on Oregon’s roster, Jake Fisher, cornerback Dior Mathis is a senior, and so will miss the Ducks’ trip to play Michigan State next season. The two Michiganders (yes, I looked that up) will at least get a chance to face a team from their home state this week, when the No. 3 Ducks host No. 7 Michigan State on Saturday in Autzen Stadium (3:30 p.m. PT, FOX).
Neither is getting too caught up in the potentially emotional matchup with a team they grew up watching. Fisher said he’s looking forward to seeing a few guys he went through the recruiting process with, and Mathis will face off with a couple players he took on in high school.
But neither had real strong feelings about the Spartans while growing up – Mathis, a Detroit native, was a Miami fan – and that hasn’t changed this week. “I’m keeping it on an even keel,” Mathis said. “I’m treating this game like I did last week. But at the same time, this is a real big game, not only for myself but the whole team. I can’t wait to play. The intensity level’s real high.”
That was apparent from the Oregon defense in Tuesday’s practice. The pass defense produced interceptions from Troy Hill, Rodney Hardrick, Juwaan Williams, Erick Dargan and Chris Seisay in various 11-on-11 situations. The run defense was swarming during one period, getting consecutive stops near the line of scrimmage from Tony Washington and Joe Walker, Hardrick and Johnny Ragin III, Sam Kamp twice and Walker again.
Of course, Michigan State will be a different sort of test than the Oregon scout team. Mathis, who plays corner in nickel situations and replaced Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the first half last week against South Dakota, will see a couple familiar faces on the other side of the line Saturday; he played in high school against MSU receiver Tony Lippett, a high school quarterback, and also knows Spartans running back Nick Hill and linebacker Mylan Hicks.
Mathis wasn’t sure if he ever picked off Lippett, while playing for Cass Tech against Crockett High. “I don’t think I did; I can’t remember if I did,” Mathis said with a wry smile. “I know I got a lot of knockdowns though, I will say that. It’s on my highlight tape.”
The two Cass Tech graduates on the MSU roster are freshmen, offensive lineman Dennis Finley and linebacker Deon Drake. Mathis said he knows both, but reiterated that he isn’t approaching this game any different than others. “I’m treating this like a normal game,” Mathis said. “But I will say, with this being a real big game, I’m really ready to play. I can’t wait until Saturday. I’m so excited.”
Highlights: The tone for practice was set with a fourth-and-short drill to start the afternoon. Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall had conversions for the offense, while Alex Balducci corralled Freeman and Grant Thompson also had a tackle to score reps for the defense. … After the offense dominated 1-on-1 passing drills Monday, the defense turned the tables today in more game-like scenarios. Seisay and Arrion Springs broke up passes during position drills, with Seisay breaking up what was almost a really nice leaping catch by Darren Carrington. …
Marcus Mariota completed deep balls to Evan Baylis, Charles Nelson and Carrington late in the day, and Baylis also got free for a long completion from Taylor Alie in an 11-on-11 scenario. … A few scout-team guys stood out, notably Jalen Jelks, who is playing MSU all-American Shilique Calhoun this week. Jelks twice reached up to knock down passes and also had a tackle for loss against the run. … Jeff Bieber looks like he wants to be named offensive scout of the week for the second straight week, as he hauled in a couple nice balls. Morgan Mahalak had a consistent connection with Casey Eugenio over the course of the day, and Mahalak also hit B.J. Kelley deep down the field.
Other observations: Big & Rich’s “Comin’ to Your City” was the first song on the soundtrack during position drills. It is of course the theme to ESPN’s “College GameDay,” which will be on hand for Saturday’s game. … Chance Allen joined Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Johnathan Loyd and Carrington back deep to field punts this afternoon. … True freshman Austin Maloata spent quite a bit of time with the No. 2 defense.