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Football Practice Report: Oct. 13

Oct 13, 2020

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Shells

When projecting Oregon's starting offensive line come the season opener, against Stanford on Nov. 7, it might be easier to start with what's unlikely rather than what's likely.

It seems unlikely that Steven Jones or George Moore will play center. It seems unlikely that Ryan Walk or Jonathan Denis will be out at tackle.

Other than that, though, there don't seem to be very many certainties for the Ducks on their offensive line so far this preseason. To be sure, there are still more than three weeks of practice before games begin, so there's still time for position coach Alex Mirabal to assess all his options.

And there's plenty of assessing to do, with the Ducks looking to replace all five starters on the line in 2020. It's not just that there are many candidates to start, but most can play multiple positions, giving Mirabal and head coach Mario Cristobal ample combinations to try out over the course of camp.

Junior Alex Forsyth was the primary center for Tuesday's practice, but he can play any position on the line. Two recent junior college transfers, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu and T.J. Bass, also are versatile, with Bass capable of playing center, guard or tackle.

"Whatever position can help the team win is what I want to do," Forsyth said.

True freshman offensive lineman Jonathan Denis.

Versatility was a boon to the UO line last season, when Calvin Throckmorton and Brady Aiello each started at multiple positions. The Ducks also benefitted from the stability of left tackle Penei Sewell, left guard Shane Lemieux and center Jake Hanson, and although they're all now pursuing professional careers, their legacy lives on in players like Forsyth, a fourth-year junior.

"Their blueprint is something I'm very grateful we got to see, and try to carry over," Forsyth said.

Forysth and Moore signed with Oregon in 2017, and Walk — who played on the same high school team as former UO quarterback Justin Herbert — joined the program that year as well. Forsyth said Tuesday that "the chemistry we've built over the years has definitely helped us."

So add chemistry to the list of assets for Oregon on the offensive line entering 2020, along with versatility. The group might be light on starting experience, but with the level of talent the Ducks have recruited in recent years, combined with the coaching of Cristobal and Mirabal, confidence remains high in the unit Oregon will field this season.

Practice highlights: The Ducks practiced in a light rain Tuesday, but that didn't keep the passing game from looking really sharp. Tyler Shough was really in sync with his primary receivers, typically Johnny Johnson III, Mycah Pittman and Jaylon Redd. In the first 11-on-11 period of the day, DJ James had pretty good coverage on Pittman, but Shough zipped a pass just out of reach for James and into the arms of Pittman for a completion. Later in practice, Redd got a step on a safety and Shough lofted a pass over the top that Redd hauled in. The receiver glanced back over one shoulder to find the ball, saw he had to make a slight adjustment and looked back again over the other shoulder to bring in the pass, an impressive display of concentration and body control. …

Freshman Kris Hutson might have had the catch of the day, cutting off a short route and then diving to make a reception. He caught the pass at full extension (above) but then brought the ball into his body as he fell to the ground, keeping it from hitting the turf. ... Jay Butterfield had a beautiful deep ball to Lance Wilhoite for a touchdown with the threes. ….

The defense didn't let the offense completely dominate though. Dru Mathis intercepted a pass over the middle at one point, and later Jordan Happle and Mykael Wright broke up passes on back-to-back reps. Later, Steve Stephens IV broke on a ball and batted it away from the receiver, with Jamal Hill (above) sticking with the play to make a diving interception. … Safety Lucas Noland made big plays on consecutive reps just before practice ended. First he broke up a pass by hitting the receiver just after the ball arrived, and on the next play Noland anticipated a short pass and tackled the receiver to eliminate yards after the catch.

Other observations: The kickoff return team got extensive reps during special teams work. The Ducks return an elite kickoff return man in Wright, and it looks like Redd, Travis Dye, Daewood Davis and Deommodore Lenoir also will compete to return kicks. … Oregon has now had two practices in helmets only and two with shoulder pads on, and will transition into practicing in full pads later this week.

Post-practice interviews:

Senior receiver Johnny Johnson III

Junior offensive lineman Alex Forsyth

Junior running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio