By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Helmets, jerseys and shorts
The Ducks wrapped up spring practices this morning under brilliant, sunny skies, and now have a couple days off prior to Saturday’s Spring Game in Autzen Stadium (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Like Monday, today’s practice ended with the two spring game teams going head-to-head in a situational drill to end the day. In this case it was a mock overtime, with Jeff Lockie throwing a touchdown pass to Kenny Bassett to win the scenario for “Mariasu.”
With the team not in pads for the third time this spring, as mandated by NCAA rules, things otherwise weren’t quite as intense physically this morning. So I thought I’d double back on a few storylines that have emerged over the course of this month.
1. From the day the roster was first updated at the start of April, it was obvious how serious some of the Ducks were about bulking up this offseason. But that means getting used to the weight on the field, which isn’t always easy. Sam Kamp, who put on around 30 pounds in an effort to make an impact at nose tackle, said earlier this month he was going through such an adjustment.
Today, Kamp said, “I feel more mobile, I feel more in shape. We’re going to have a lot of reps on Saturday, but I feel good, I feel ready. I feel a lot quicker in tight spaces; there’s still a lot of things I’ve got to work on, more speed off my pass rush, things like that. But we practice so hard, the more you push yourself the easier it gets.”
2. Given noncommittal reviews from the staff, and the limited situations in which Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues saw the field last fall, fans are still wondering which one of the backup quarterbacks would get the call if the need arose in a meaningful situation. Personally, my amateur opinion was that Lockie had the edge coming into this spring but that Rodrigues had a strong month, particularly in last week’s scrimmage.
Rodrigues says he’s finally at full strength, after having a procedure over the offseason to address lingering effects from the catastrophic lower leg injury that ended his high school career. “I feel awesome, 100 percent again,” Rodrigues said. “Spring has been great. We had a lot of fun. It’s a different feeling than the two springs I’ve been through before this. Every guy did what they were supposed to do and got better.”
3. Four members of the 2014 signing class were on hand this spring, included freshman receiver Jalen Brown, JC guard Haniteli Lousi, JC defensive lineman Tui Talia and cornerback Dominique Harrison. All three JC guys played consistently with the second string throughout April, and Brown had moments here and there as he made the adjustment to playing against bigger, faster competition.
Of the four, my perception was that Talia was the most consistent over the course of the month, but Harrison really came into his own over the last week. He had interceptions in last week’s scrimmage and of Marcus Mariota on Monday, and is looking to make more plays Saturday. “I’m ready,” Harrison said. “I’ve been preparing all this time to show people everything I’ve been going through, and now can go out there and have fun and just play. I feel a lot more comfortable out there now. I know the calls now, so I can play my own style now.”
4. The second week of Oregon’s five-week spring schedule was marked by the conspicuous presence of former basketball point guard Johnathan Loyd in football gear. Having exhausted his collegiate eligibility on the hardwood, but with a year left to compete in another sport, Loyd joined the football team as a receiver and returner.
Three weeks later, Loyd is just another member of the rotation. He did a great job getting downfield to haul in a deep ball from Taylor Alie this morning, and he’s starting to look more comfortable playing through contact and making a catch. “It’s night and day,” Loyd said. “I’m getting better every day; route-running is more comfortable, I’m more comfortable with the blocking, play calling, all that.” He still got that basketball mindset, though; after making a couple guys miss on a long punt return this morning, Loyd had to get the football back to a manager for the next rep, and did so with a behind-the-back pass.
5. With Alejandro Maldonado having graduated and Dylan Ausherman not returning this spring, Matt Wogan became a candidate to handle both the punting and placekicking jobs for 2014. Steps were taken to ease the wear on his leg this spring, and Wogan was all but perfect in the two scrimmages this month. He wasn’t as consistent as he would have liked in practice, but Saturday is another chance to show he can perform when the lights go on (so to speak).
Highlights: Mariota made a couple nice connections with Darren Carrington during situational work, and had a touchdown to Byron Marshall during 7-on-7 in the red zone. … Ifo Ekpre-Olomu broke up a Mariota pass in the end zone early in the day, and Reggie Daniels broke up a pass from Alie to Brown late in the morning. … Alie’s deep ball to Loyd was a heck of a play. The protection broke down, so Alie looked to run, but then he thought again, dropped back and unleashed the long ball that Loyd hauled in after shaking loose from the coverage.
Other observations: Cody Carriger made a couple standout plays over the course of the morning, stripping a QB of the ball during the tempo drill to start practice, and later drifting 20 or so yards down the field to intercept a pass. … At one point Mariota dumped a little screen to Thomas Tyner, who quickly turned upfield. “He’s so freaking fast,” a player watching from the sideline said. … Helfrich said he was still in his office going over final practice preparations early this morning when he looked out onto the fields and saw the entire wide receiver group out early getting loose, along with several young defensive backs.