What to watch for: Oregon spring game
There's plenty of interest in Oregon this year and it's not just because the team is coming off another BCS bowl win and top-five finish last season. No, most eyes will be planted firmly on new head coach Mark Helfrich and how he'll handle himself in a national television debut on Pac-12 Networks at 11 a.m. PT this Saturday. That's not all you'll need to watch for, though. Here are a few other things to keep an eye on:
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Who is the next guy in at quarterback? Like everybody else around the conference, someone getting injured is no doubt on the forefront of the minds of the Ducks' coaching staff. That means the Oregon starters will get a few series and then plenty of backups will take to the field at Autzen. With Marcus Mariota's spot atop the depth chart solidified, the attention on Saturday should turn to who is the next guy in as his backup. Redshirt freshmen Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues are the signal-callers who will be looking to leave the best impression, so seeing who handles the huddle best and makes the most plays should be something to watch as Mark Helfrich decides on the backup to his Heisman Trophy candidate behind center.
[Related: Spring football TV schedule]
What kind of rotation will there be along the defensive line? The term "starter" doesn't hold much weight for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. His defensive front has rotated bodies more than most in the conference and it's paid off with significant success over the past few seasons. From Arik Armstead to Deforest Buckner to Ricky Havili-Heimuli, there are a ton of guys who should contribute in 2013. While three of the starting jobs are likely locked up, a number of talented sophomores (such as Armstead, Buckner and Alex Balducci) will make a run at more playing time. This position is undoubtedly the strength of the defense and probably will cause some headaches for coach Ron Aiken as he tries to find everybody reps.
[Related: Oregon 2013 football schedule]
Salute to the troops One of the cool things the Ducks have done at their past few spring games is make an effort to give back. That's the case again on Saturday as a number of festivities will take place on campus to not only celebrate Ducks athletics, but also call attention to the armed forces in the region. From the school site:
For the fourth year in a row, the spring’s final scrimmage will provide the backdrop for the recognition of the nation’s armed services. Most of the pregame, halftime and postgame festivities will include participation from various branches of the armed forces, including a joint service color guard and ceremonies to honor the men and women from the state and their families for the sacrifices of their time overseas, and a halftime flag-folding ceremony. Following the scrimmage, Oregon football players will present their specially-made jerseys to approximately 100 uniformed men and women representing all branches of the military.
Now that's just awesome, and certainly something to tune into Pac-12 Networks to see.