by Rob Moseley
Under blazing skies Thursday, Tyson Coleman stood at the edge of Oregon's new turf practice fields and stretched his legs for the conditioning session that was about to begin.
The Ducks' nearly completed Football Performance Center loomed behind Coleman, as he considered a question about the UO football team's mood upon the conclusion of summer workouts this week.
"With the new facility and new fields, with all that together, everyone's excited," Coleman said, breaking into a smile. "The tension is turning up. Everybody's realizing we've got a game in a little over a month, so it's go time."
Oregon football players spent this summer lifting weights, working out with athletes from the rest of the department's teams in afternoon conditioning sessions, and holding voluntary workouts in which they ran plays against each other. Those concluded as of the end of this week, with many players leaving town to spend a week with family before preseason camp begins Aug. 5.
Newcomers to the team will report for camp next Saturday and veterans will be back a day later, for their first chance to check out the Football Performance Center. Then, the Ducks can resume the work that began this summer, preparing for their Aug. 31 season opener against Nicholls in Autzen Stadium.
"Starting the summer off, our 7-on and stuff was a little bit scrappy, a little scattered here and there," Coleman said. "I feel like that's what you'd expect, and I think throughout the summer a bunch of leaders have stepped up and got stuff organized.
"As a team we grew together a little bit; we still have a long way to go with camp, figure out who our vocal leaders are and stuff like that, but it's working itself out right now."
On Thursday, quarterback and universally acknowledged team leader Marcus Mariota was en route to Los Angeles for Pac-12 Media Day. But senior Dustin Haines, who earned a scholarship this summer in recognition of the respect he's endeared over the last four years, was still on hand to help run the 7-on-7 — really, 11-on-11 — that preceded conditioning with strength coach Jim Radcliffe.
The Ducks are moving on without some 2012 seniors who were figureheads of the team's leadership structure, such as Michael Clay, Dion Jordan and Ryan Clanton. In their absence, Coleman said several new leaders have emerged; as examples, he cited defensive linemen Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi, two quiet, lead-by-example types, and defensive lineman Sam Kamp, an ever-present face at workouts this summer.
"Tons of guys have been out here working hard," Coleman said. "I think people who weren't showing up as much saw that, and now we have a pretty good turnout, with pretty much everybody out here."
Thus the Ducks could go about addressing one of the summer session's central purposes: building chemistry. An 18-player freshman class is newly on hand, and the veterans have been working to blend them in with the rest of the roster.
"There's still some things we need to work on, continue to get better, just becoming more one as a team," receiver Josh Huff said. "We still have some individuals here and there. But as long as we get them to come around by fall camp, have them get in shape and things like that, we should be fine."
Arik Armstead, a sophomore who broke into the lineup last fall as a true freshman, said he's seen positive signs from the newcomers, and that he expects the class to have an impact on the 2013 season.
Which players specifically might do so? That will be revealed in August, he said.
"I think fall camp will be the judge of that," Armstead said. "Once fall camp comes around and we get out there practicing, I'm sure some freshmen will separate themselves."
Over the course of the summer months, Huff said he's seen "a lot more hunger, a lot more hunger. You can just feel the tension from everyone, ready to get it strapped up as we get that much closer to Aug. 31."
Coleman might be as anxious as anyone. He broke his foot during spring drills, and was one of several players who sat out the spring game for health reasons.
"It's all healed up, (and now) it's just a comfort thing, got to get back on it," Coleman said. "I've been doing all our workouts for two weeks, and before that I was in the pool so I'm in pretty good shape. I'll be ready to go (for the start of camp)."
Clearly, the Ducks' overriding mentality at this point is the anticipation of preseason camp. But a quick look back at the now-completed summer yielded positive reviews.
"Our main focus was lifting and conditioning, and working out together, building some team camaraderie," Armstead said. "I feel like we did a good job doing that this summer."