By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
There was a new addition to the roster this morning, with Johnathan Loyd – the winningest player in UO men’s basketball history – joining the football team as a wide receiver.
Loyd, a point guard who led the Ducks into the third round of the NCAA Tournament last month, watched practice one day last week while investigating whether to accept an offer to join the team for his fifth year of collegiate eligibility. He consulted with friends over the weekend, including UO receiver Keanon Lowe, and was in uniform today as Oregon kicked off the second week of spring drills.
“This would be my last chance ever to play football, and I do love the sport,” said Loyd, a shutdown cornerback and return man as a senior for Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas five years ago. “Not as much as basketball, but I still have a chance to play it and not really lose much on the basketball end.”
Loyd spent this morning being brought up to speed by Lowe, UO receivers coach Matt Lubick and graduate assistant coach Nate Costa, who works with the wideouts. He showed off good hands in drills, held his own in blocking situations and also worked with the kick returners.
“It’s his first day in four years of playing football, and he’s out here with the Oregon Ducks and holding his own,” Lowe said in admiration. “You can tell he’s a natural football player. And I don’t think I saw him drop one pass all day. I’m excited to help him, and I’m excited that it looks like we added another dynamic player in our (meeting) room.”
Lowe said Lubick expressed interest in Loyd as a football player, and Lowe brought it up to Loyd personally. The two were dormmates as newcomers to the athletic department in 2009, and later shared a house for a year.
“I told him we’d walk him through, take it slow,” Lowe said. “You could come out in spring, and if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But he’s a competitor.
“And he’s one of my best friends, so I’ve always wanted to be his teammate. So I definitely expressed that to him.”
Loyd said that “as of right now, I’m committed 100 percent” to football, through the fall. He remains interested in playing basketball professionally after that.
But for now, Loyd is an Oregon football player. And based on Monday, a guy who can help the team with some receptions in the fall.
“That’s one thing I can do – I can catch the ball,” Loyd said. “I can run and I can catch. Receiver’s not too much different than anything else.”
As mentioned earlier, though, blocking didn’t seem to be an issue, either.
“I like to be physical,” Loyd said. “I’ve just got to get the technique going, so I don’t lean and get tossed by one of the DBs. I’ve just got to get my technique right. Keep listening to the coaches, and keep watching Keanon and Bralon (Addison) and mimic what they do, because they’re great at it.”
Loyd wore jersey No. 19 this morning, but his helmet and shorts bore the number he’ll wear going forward, 10 – also his number in basketball. Redshirt freshman quarterback Damion Hobbs will switch from No. 10 to No. 2.
Highlights: Perhaps due to Loyd’s presence, I made a lot of notes about receivers today. Dwayne Stanford caught touchdowns from Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues during a 7-on-7 drill in the red zone, and also had a pancake block to spring Marcus Mariota for a long run in team drills. … Jalen Brown also had a nice block during that team period, and he later went up and over a safety to haul in a deep ball from Mariota. Last week must have been a little overwhelming for the true freshman, but he looked today like the game is starting to slow down a bit. …
Chance Allen made a nice diving catch in 1-on-1 drills, and Devon Allen got past a cornerback for a deep ball, two days after running three events in the Oregon-Arizona track dual meet. … Chance Allen later added a touchdown from Rodrigues in a team red-zone situation.
Other observations: There were also defensive highlights, of course. Erick Dargan had an interception in 7-on-7, and Joe Walker broke up a Mariota pass a bit later. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu broke up a pass during the 7-on-7 red-zone scenario, and during a team situation Tony Washington, Christian French and DeForest Buckner all had tackles for loss. During team red zone, one of the quarterbacks overthrew a tight end and the ball was intercepted in the end zone – by strength coach Jim Radcliffe, who began to return it behind a cavalcade of defenders.
In special teams, Matt Wogan looked good punting the ball. Handling both punting and placekicking is a heavy load, but Wogan’s got enough leg to handle both jobs if everyone agrees that’s the way to go. Addison, Dargan and Ekpre-Olomu fielded punts.
Other than Loyd’s presence, the most entertaining element of practice was a period devoted to tug-of-war midway through the morning, offense vs. defense. Stanford, Loyd, Byron Marshall and Kani Benoit won reps for the offense, and Buckner, French, Walker, Tui Talia, Oshay Dunmore and Alex Balducci won for the defense. In a three-man battle to end the period, Johnny Ragin III, Eric Amoako and Isaac Ava bested Devon Allen, Thomas Tyner and Hamani Stevens. As much as brute strength, footing seemed to be a decisive factor in many of the matchups.
Later tonight, the Ducks will have a team dinner for all players – walk-ons as well as scholarship guys – before watching the NCAA men’s basketball final.