By Rob Moseley
Today was the 12th practice of the spring, wrapping up the fourth week on Oregon’s five-week schedule of spring drills.
That means the spring game is right around the corner, at Autzen Stadium on May 3 (11 a.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks). This afternoon, the Ducks will draft two teams to go head-to-head next Saturday, one led by captains Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu, the other captained by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Tony Washington.
“They’ll be the brass this afternoon to draft the rest of the squads,” UO coach Mark Helfrich said after practice today.
The coaching staff has already been split up between the two teams by the captains, though the coaches haven’t been told yet which sideline they’ll be on.
The format could still be adjusted next week based on the overall health of the team, but the preference will be that “it’ll be as much of a recognizable football game” as possible, Helfrich said.
The final few minutes of today’s practice featured a little of that, too. The Ducks did two reps of a late-game scenario in which one team has the lead and needed to run out the clock, and the other was trying to get the ball back and come from behind.
Mariota and the No. 1 offense took some time off the clock before being forced to punt, after which Jake Rodrigues managed one first down but didn’t lead the twos back from behind. Joe Walker and Rahim Cassell combined on a sack to help protect the lead.
Running through the drill again, Jeff Lockie and the twos again ran a few plays with the lead before punting. Taylor Alie then got a shot to quarterback the ones and drove them deep down the field, with a couple nice scrambles and some completions to Ayele Forde, Dwayne Stanford and Johnny Mundt.
The drive included two fourth-down conversions against the No. 1 defense, a run by Alie and a diving catch by Forde. But the day ended with Rodney Hardrick busting into the backfield, forcing an off-balance throw that Erick Dargan intercepted.
It was a very competitive few minutes, and definitely got the juices flowing a little bit. And for a defense looking to make more tackles for loss this season, the penetration by inside linebackers Walker, Cassell and Hardrick was a good sign.
Other highlights: The normal course of a practice features plenty of give and take, and the linebackers didn’t always fare as well. During an early drill involving “in-the-box” guys on both sides, run down near the goal line, Grasu drove one linebacker out the back of the end zone, and Cameron Hunt pancaked another. … Mariota had a couple running plays today on which he hit the sideline and flashed that unbelievable speed. …
Oshay Dunmore is a guy who brings it every day, but he was particularly fired up this morning. He had a great rep during kickoff drills, engaging his man, shedding the block and making a tackle. Later on he came up to stuff a screen pass near the line of scrimmage. … Derrick Malone also jumped out a couple times, sealing off the edge to contain a running back near the line, and later breaking up a pass.
Other observations: During one 11-on-11 scenario, the center pulled out after making the snap, took on a linebacker and put him on his back. We’re used to seeing that from Grasu, but in this case it was backup Doug Brenner, who still looks pretty mobile despite putting on weight this offseason. … Torrodney Prevot also had a nice rep during kickoff coverage, and Keanon Lowe was the first guy to the ball a couple times. But the scout team wasn’t completely shut out, with Darren Carrington breaking through the coverage team on one long return.