by Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
Let's start off this report with an incredibly outdated yet incredibly important -- and for the Ducks incredibly good -- piece of news.
Because he played as a true freshman in 2011, starting MIKE linebacker Rodney Hardrick has always been a junior in my mind. Ah, but here's the rub: Hardrick played in only four games that season, due to a knee injury, and they all were in the first half of the season.
Hardrick appealed to the NCAA for a medical hardship, and because he had never redshirted, it was a slam dunk. Hardrick thus played last season as a redshirt freshman, not a sophomore, and this season is a third-year sophomore, not a junior as he's been listed.
"It was cool," Hardrick said today, humoring me with a quote on this nearly two-year-old "news." "I just took advantage of the opportunity, got that experience in. Played in four games for free, basically."
For the Oregon defense, this also is not news, obviously. But for those of us who thought the Ducks would need to replace starters Derrick Malone and Hardrick after the 2014 season, it's huge to find out Hardrick will have a chance to play through 2015.
On to today's practice ...
It was another warm, muggy day inside the Moshofsky Center. My MVPs for the day were the scout-team offensive line. Whenever the Ducks went 11-on-11 in practice, the travelling squad defense rotated units, but that offensive line was on the field for every snap, slogging through despite the conditions.
Right now, that group from left to right is Elijah George, Jamal Prater, Doug Brenner, Brigham Stoehr and Matthew McFadden. Brian Teague, who moved from tight end to tackle in the spring, was called upon to run some routes again as a fill-in tight end.
"It's just all about giving the defense a good look," McFadden said. "We're all in it to win on Saturday, so we all have that feeling of pride that we're giving them a look they're going to need for the game. It's a team effort.
"There's times where you have to mentally just cowboy up. You know, 'Get through it, give the defense a good look.' Guys motivate each other, just, 'Keep pushing, keep pushing.'"
The group did so Monday and Tuesday despite the heat and humidity, and the effort is to be commended.
Highlights: Today's practice ended with a remarkable few minutes for the defense against that scout-team offense; I don't think I've ever seen so many interceptions in so few reps. Boseko Lokombo tipped a ball into the air and caught it, Joe Walker tipped a ball Brian Jackson hauled in, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu hauled in yet another tipped ball, while Troy Hill, Dior Mathis and Erick Dargan all intercepted passes outright.
Perhaps feeling those vibes, Eric Amoako took advantage of a bad route from a young receiver and picked off Marcus Mariota while playing with the scout-team defense. But as usual, Mariota had plenty of highlights, hitting Colt Lyerla and De'Anthony Thomas for big gains during FUJI, calling out for Devon Allen to give him a block while running in the open field, and connecting with Thomas Tyner for a big gain through the air.
Other observations: During kickoff return drills, I was struck by the number of dangerous options the Ducks have there, from Ekpre-Olomu to Hill to Terrance Mitchell to Josh Huff to Byron Marshall to B.J. Kelley. Not surprising, but particularly striking today. ... Austin Daich and Michael Manns had notable good efforts for the scout coverage team. ... Manns, Brandon Thomas and Eric Solis are back with the team now that rosters can expand beyond 105 players following the first game. ...
Hardrick's recognition is remarkable. During special teams meetings Friday night, he was almost always the first guy to recognize what he was seeing on film, and in practice his anticipation is uncanny. ... Andre Yruretagoyena and Matt Pierson continue to rotate with the second team at left tackle and left guard, as they did Saturday against Nicholls. ... The Ducks also did punt drills, and one of the first tackles was made by DeForest Buckner. Who is 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds. Yet was first down the field covering a punt. ... Not every pass for the scout-team offense was intercepted. Taylor Alie had a nice completion to Darren Carrington, who snuck toes from each foot in-bounds before falling out.