By Rob Moseley
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Head coach Mark Helfrich allowed the Ducks some extra recovery time the day after Tuesday’s scrimmage, holding meetings and treatment rather than a second practice Wednesday. On Thursday, he had his foot back on the gas.
Early in the practice, backs and defenders were facing off in a 2-on-2 drill, with the quarterbacks throwing passes. Helfrich announced that the drill was live, and for the next couple minutes there was some fierce blocking and tackling.
Juwaan Williams twice managed to shed blocks and bring down ballcarriers, and Christian French stopped a receiver for a short gain. Torrodney Prevot had a runner elude him on one rep, but he recovered the next time up to defeat a block and make the tackle.
Offensively, Casey Eugenio wriggled out of a couple tackles, and Tony James and Jeff Bieber also slipped through defenders’ grasp. Charles Nelson set a pretty physical block for Ayele Forde. In a rep that had a little to like on both sides, Thomas Tyner ran through Troy Hill, who managed to pop the ball loose as Tyner tried to get separation.
The Ducks are still deep in the mode of installing new schemes, but Helfrich didn’t want that to distract players from the bottom line. “When in doubt, go fast,” he said after practice. “When in doubt, be physical.” During that 2-on-2 drill, Helfrich made sure that happened.
Highlights: The day ended with an overtime drill, matching the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense, and then the twos. Tyner had a long run to get the offense near the goal line, but an Ifo Ekpre-Olomu pass breakup and a Joe Walker tackle for loss forced a field-goal attempt that was good.
There was a pretty eye-opening moment midway through practice when the linemen did 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. True freshman Tyrell Crosby neutralized a spin move by DeForest Buckner, the two faced off again immediately and Crosby won the matchup again. Hardly anybody has had success against Buckner in that drill the last two weeks, but the true freshman held his own.
Hroniss Grasu and Davis Miyashiro-Saipaia also had good reps offensively, while Jalen Jelks and Tony Washington did so on defense. Henry Mondeaux, who has been another consistent standout in the drill, found himself matched up today with starters Hamani Stevens and Jake Fisher. The freshman had a little tougher go of it than usual, winding up on the turf both times.
Other observations: Williams and Arrion Springs had interceptions during a 3-on-2 passing drill, and Hill broke up a ball in the end zone. Mariota had a touchdown pass to Royce Freeman, and Ty Griffin completed one to B.J. Kelley. … During 7-on-7, Mariota had nice completions to Devon Allen and Dwayne Stanford, while Grant Thompson intercepted a pass with the threes. … Mondeaux and Fisher had a couple more head-to-head battles in team drills. That period also featured Rodney Hardrick forcing Mariota to leave the pocket and throw the ball away, and a big block by Marshall to clear room for Tyner. … The final team period prior to the overtime scenario began with consecutive plays on which Arik Armstead and then Buckner bottled up Tyner, but Mariota connected with Allen for a long pass a couple snaps later.