By Rob Moseley
Venue: Autzen Stadium
Format: Jerseys and shorts
The defender lined up in the box, the golden No. 11 standing out on his powder-blue jersey. At the snap he blitzed, and when the quarterback released a quick pass, the defender jumped into the air, snared the football with both hands and headed up the field.
If you’ve seen the guy who wears No. 11 in the gold-and-blue for UCLA, Anthony Barr, you know he can make just that sort of freakishly athletic, amazingly instinctive play. But this happened in an Oregon practice this week, by a guy in a scout-team jersey trying to mimic Barr for the Ducks, redshirting defensive end T.J. Daniel.
“We told him at the start of the week that we needed him to play the role of Anthony Barr because of his size and athleticism,” said UO GA Joe Bernadi, who coordinates the scout-team defense, “and he did an outstanding job.”
Barr is considered one of the top defensive players in the country, and a likely first-round NFL draft pick in the spring. He has four sacks among his 11 tackles for loss through six games, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Giving Oregon’s offense an idea of what Barr can do was a tall order, but Daniel drew raves for the job he did in practices this week.
“I had to step up my game,” the soft-spoken sophomore said. “It was a tough thing to do, but I gave them a good look.
“He does everything well. He’s real physical, real good with his hands, real good pass rusher. Everything. I had to use all aspects of my game.”
A converted tight end, Daniel said he’s enjoying defensive end more than he did playing offense. That shows in his being featured in this weekly scout-team spotlight for the second time this season already.
“He’s a smart kid, learning the technique and learning what we do on defense,” D line coach Ron Aiken said. “We’re optimistic. I like his size, his length.”
Aiken said spring practice will be a huge chance for Daniel to prove himself for next season. The Ducks return starting defensive end DeForest Buckner as well as Sam Kamp, but Daniel will have a chance to play himself into the rotation.
“That’ll be a big time for him,” Aiken said. “We think he can help us, but he’s got to do it on the field.”
Observations: Today was Oregon’s “Fast Friday,” an uptempo review of Thursday’s walk-through, so there were no highlights to report. … During the 10-minute scout-team scrimmage beforehand, Darren Carrington had a couple of nice receptions, Damion Hobbs had one of those completions and a deft keeper in the read-option, and running backs Lane Roseberry and J.J. Jones had long gains. … Today’s practice was a rare well-attended event on the sidelines, with ESPN’s crew on hand for portions of the morning and several family members of players, including Marcus Mariota and Hamani Stevens.