By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
After the UO offense converted a few times in clutch scenarios this morning, the defense answered with vigor during Friday’s second practice.
Neither the ones nor twos managed to convert when down two points and needing to drive to a field goal. Marcus Mariota completed a couple passes to Keanon Lowe but then was victimized by a couple of drops. Eventually Aidan Schneider was called upon to attempt a 53-yard field goal, which was no good.
The twos couldn’t convert either, after which Mariota and company returned to the field needing to drive to a touchdown. Passes to Lowe and Darren Carrington moved the ball, and on the last rep of the day, Mariota scrambled around before lofting a shovel pass to Lowe in the end zone. UO coach Mark Helfrich, however, ruled that the play was dead thanks to a sack, and the defense won the day.
When playing referee in those game-like situations, Helfrich does his best to keep the Ducks on their toes. He’ll use timeouts to ice kickers, call penalties just when one unit thought it had made a play – anything to tweak the scenario and create some adversity.
Helfrich got a couple guys out of their comfort zone at the end of practice, calling Mariota and Arik Armstead up to the front of the huddle to give their thoughts on practice in front of the team. They’re two quiet guys, both also two of the Ducks’ best players, leaders the team needs to follow in 2014.
Highlights: This morning began with an Oklahoma-type drill, and true freshman nose tackle Austin Maloata more than held his own. Later in team drills, Maloata and Hamani Stevens took turns pancaking each other on consecutive reps. … During one-on-one drills in the red zone, Devon Allen caught a touchdown from Jeff Lockie, Byron Marshall caught a touchdown and Dwayne Stanford made a couple really athletic grabs. Chris Seisay and Stephen Amoako had nice pass breakups, Amoako’s coming one rep after he allowed an Austin Daich touchdown. …
Perhaps today’s most encouraging period was a punt drill in which Ian Wheeler really sparkled. The punt team was first backed up into its own end zone, then brought to midfield to try to pin the receiving team deep in its own territory. In both case Wheeler had several high, well-placed punts. … Joe Walker had several tackles in team situations. He looks like a de facto third starter at this point, much in the way Michael Clay was in 2010 behind Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews.
Other observations: One of the biggest storylines of this week to me has been the way Jake Fisher is stepping up on the offensive line. He’s very vocal on the sideline, is setting the pace when running between drills, etc. The unit obviously needed a boost this week, and he’s provided it. … Speaking of the offensive line, walk-on Matthew McFadden, a veteran of the program, was added to the preseason roster of 105 players as of today. …
Receiver Jeff Bieber is an athletic guy with good body control. He’ll give the defense a good look with the scout team this fall. … Royce Freeman trucked a defensive back pretty good early in the afternoon. … Tyrell Crosby spent a series or two with the ones in each practice today. I’m not reading too much into that, figuring they’re just making sure he’s got a little experience with those guys if pressed into action at some point down the road.