Football Practice Report: Oct. 22
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
The Oregon football team was in full pads Thursday, and will be again Saturday when the Ducks hold their second major scrimmage of preseason camp. That will come two weeks before Oregon opens the 2020 season, making these prime evaluation days for the players and staff.
Perhaps nowhere are there more decisions to be finalized than on the offensive line. Oregon is looking to replace the top six players in the rotation from last season, and has eight or nine candidates to play the five positions along the line.
Given the need to replace five seniors as well as Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell, the returning linemen know there may be questions about the unit. But the Ducks believe they have answers.
"We feel like, since the old heads left, a lot of people think of us as the weakest link," sophomore Steven Jones said. "And none of us are about that."
Jones might be the best bet to serve as Sewell's heir apparent at left tackle for the Ducks. But options abound. Senior George Moore has taken reps at left tackle with the No. 1 offense at times, as has junior college transfer T.J. Bass.
Moore has played guard as well in this camp, for the first time in his UO career. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu also can play guard or tackle, and Dawson Jaramillo has played both tackle and center. Ryan Walk and Jonathan Denis are equally comfortable at center or guard, and Alex Forsyth is so versatile, teammates call him "Tool Box."
Offensive line assistant Alex Mirabal said this week he has cross-trained his group to play on both the left and right side of the line, to maximize versatility. An offensive line always needs to be prepared to reshuffle in the event of an injury, but the COVID pandemic — and the potential for absences due to safety protocols — places an extra premium on flexibility this year.
"Our chemistry is starting to come together, slowly but surely," Jones said.
One of the best stories on the line could be Moore, who arrived at Oregon in 2017 as a potential heir apparent to Tyrell Crosby. But Sewell ended up filling that role, and Moore bided his time while developing his skills in practice. After petitioning with the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2020, Moore has positioned himself to capitalize on his patience and hard work.
"It's a blessing that he decided to come back to the University of Oregon, that's for sure," Mirabal said.
Moore is in the somewhat odd position of being both the oldest member of the offensive line, but also a potentially new face in the starting lineup. Jones said Moore has lately developed into a leadership voice among the linemen, although Moore doesn't quite see himself in that role.
"I wouldn't say I'm a leader; I like to help guys out, but I can learn from anybody," Moore said. "… I see myself as a new guy that just came in. I just want to be a sponge, and soak everything up."
With that kind of attitude, the UO offensive line hopes to end any doubts about its ability to replace all five starters.
"It's going to be exciting," Jones said. "We've got a lot of young guys, but we're all locked in and ready to go."
Practice highlights: Thursday's practice featured an overtime scenario, with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 1 defense to start, and then the second units facing off. Sophomore nickel Jamal Hill continued his strong camp with a couple of big plays in the first overtime period. On the opening play, Tyler Shough fired a pass to Jaylon Redd, who seemed to have a step on Hill. But Hill quickly closed the gap and tipped the pass at the last second. A couple plays later, Shough and Redd did connect, but Hill tackled Redd short of the line to gain, and the offense settled for a 35-yard field goal by Camden Lewis. …
The No. 2 offense then had a chance to win the drill, and wasted no time doing so. Anthony Brown took a shot down the field and Devon Williams hauled it in for a "game-winning" touchdown, with that tandem continuing to show impressive chemistry. … In the period prior to that one, Andrew Faoliu had a scoop-and-score touchdown for the No. 2 defense. Later in the period, the Shough-to-Redd connection was on display yet again. Mase Funa was the last defender with a shot at Redd, but running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio threw a downfield block that cleared the way for Redd to reach the end zone. …
The first 11-on-11 period of the day was a goal-line drill. Austin Faoliu and Popo Aumavae stopped run plays short of the goal line, and Hunter Kampmoyer continued to prove himself more reliable in the passing game with a touchdown reception from Shough. The No. 3 offense also had a couple of passing touchdowns, one from Cale Millen to Justin Collins and another from Bradley Yaffe to Cooper Shults. … Millen had a nice bit of improvisation a few minutes later in a different drill, avoiding a pass rusher and completing a shovel pass to Trey Benson. … JJ Greenfield had an interception in that period.
Other observations: The term "no block, no rock" is usually applied to receivers, but running backs coach Jim Mastro has the same mentality. Pass protection is a requisite skills for running backs who want to play for Mastro at Oregon. Thursday's practice provided a chance for Mastro to evaluate his guys in a full-contact drill, as the backs did 1-on-1 pass-rush reps against linebackers. Big redshirt freshman Jayvaun Wilson is tailor-made for the job, and had a couple of really solid reps. Benson has the physical tools for the job, and after being coached up on the side by veteran Travis Dye, Benson had progressively more success over the course of the drill. Defensively, freshman linebacker Noah Sewell presented a serious challenge for the backs tasked with blocking him.
Senior offensive lineman George Moore
Senior linebacker Dru Mathis
Sophomore offensive lineman Steven Jones
Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal (from Wednesday evening)