By Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is one of the most mature, thoughtful players on the Oregon football team. He’s as well-suited as anybody on the roster to make a difficult decision that requires deep consideration on both sides of a tricky issue.
Which is good, because that’s exactly the spot Ekpre-Olomu finds himself in right now. With projections suggesting he could be taken as high as the middle of the first round were he to enter the 2014 NFL draft as a junior, Ekpre-Olomu has just a few more weeks to decide where he’ll play football next fall.
“I really just want to make sure that I’m just ready to leave,” Ekpre-Olomu said after practice today, the Ducks’ last before beginning serious Alamo Bowl preparations Tuesday, following a day off Monday.
“That’s going to be the main thing for me. I’m still young, and it’s going to be difficult, I think, for me being 20 years old, getting ready to play in the NFL.”
Ekpre-Olomu cited “the college experience” as a primary reason to return for his senior season, and said he doesn’t feel pressure to leave for the sake of his family’s finances. He’s eagerly awaiting word from the NFL’s draft evaluation board on where they think he’ll be selected, which should come any day now.
Projections in the media have Ekpre-Olomu going in the middle of the first round, but he’s taking those with a grain of salt.
“Projections are something, but you never know until that day when your named is called,” Ekpre-Olomu said. “I’m not really worried what somebody says, because what influence do they really have? They might have heard stuff, but at the same time it could be all talk.”
UO coach Mark Helfrich says he approaches his role in these decisions as “reverse recruiting. And it’s kind of how we recruit: ‘Here’s our deal, and do you want to be a part of it or not?’ It’s not a sales thing.”
Helfrich said the NFL draft evaluation board has done a better job in recent years of providing accurate assessments to players. College coaches also use their own NFL contacts to gauge interest in their underclassmen, and report that back to the players.
The Ducks have already had two players opt to return for next season rather than enter the draft, in quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu. At least two others, running back De'Anthony Thomas and cornerback Terrance Mitchell, also are seriously considering early entry as juniors.
“We’ve talked about it briefly, but he says he doesn’t know anything right now,” Campbell said.
Ekpre-Olomu seems to be in the same boat.
“At this time, the bowl season, I’m really just worried about getting better,” he said. “Trying to improve on everything I can up until this game against Texas.”
Highlights: Rushing yards were tough to come by again today, with DeForest Buckner, Boseko Lokombo and Stetzon Bair recording tackles for loss in 11-on-11. … The offense did convert a few first downs during the scenario, though, including on runs by Taylor Alie, Kenny Bassett, Lane Roseberry, J.J. Jones and Josh Huff. …
During seven-on, Huff hauled in a Mariota pass to convert a second-and-long, and Jake Rodrigues did likewise with Blake Stanton. … Dior Mathis, Chris Seisay and Terrance Mitchell all provided tight coverage on some incompletions, Mitchell’s coming on one of several spirited, physical reps he had matched up with Chance Allen. … While the “skill” guys did seven-on, the offensive line ran some very physical drills against the defensive line and MIKE linebackers, five-on-five.
Other observations: Campbell said he still considers Byron Marshall his starting running back. Marshall had four rushing yards in the final two regular-season games due to injury. Backup Thomas Tyner is dealing with a hamstring issue, Campbell said, but it wasn’t portrayed as serious. … Campbell, a Texas native, said he’ll have a number of friends and family at the Alamo Bowl. … Helfrich said the Ducks naturally will expect Texas to be motivated to send Mack Brown out with a win, after the Longhorns’ coach announced Saturday he’ll step down after the bowl game. “I’m sure they’ll be fired up,” Helfrich said. “… We know we’re going to get their best shot, and we need to be fired up to play our game.”