Football Practice Report: Oct. 31
Venue: Autzen Stadium
Format: Mock game
The Oregon football team put a bow on preseason camp Saturday night with a mock game in Autzen Stadium.
After the loss of several key seniors plus underclassmen who opted out of the upcoming season, the defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions will be a much younger team when they take the field to open the 2020 season on Nov. 7 against Stanford. Several newcomers to the program are expected to play key roles, from junior college transfer TJ Bass on the offensive line to freshman linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe.
The team missed the chance to mimic a gameday in the spring due to the pandemic, and then had another scrimmage canceled last week due to testing protocols. So Saturday provided one last, vital chance to run through gameday operations prior to the home opener in a week.
The team mocked everything from its gameday meal to watching a pregame motivational video to taking the field in small groups for warmups. Then, the Ducks went through a practice broken up into halves, conducting a scrimmage for the first half and then running through a script of various potential gameday scenarios in the second half.
The format was adjusted slightly in the wake of last week's canceled scrimmage, providing a chance to cut it loose in the first half without subjecting the team to a full game's worth of hitting prior to the season's start.
"Sudden change is a part of this season, not only on the field but as it relates to scheduling," Cristobal said in a press conference with local media one day earlier, on Friday afternoon. "Part of me is glad we had a chance to deal with a situation that didn't have any consequences, yet prepared us for the reality of what the world is right now."
Cristobal said Friday he hoped coaches would be able to identify "a legitimate two- to two-and-a-half-deep" roster coming out of Saturday night. Film review of the practice will help them finalize that, but the team's depth was able to shine Saturday night.
Kris Hutson looks capable of complementing the veterans who began preseason camp in the two-deep at receiver, and freshmen Sean Dollars and Trey Benson both appear capable of picking up some carries in a stacked offensive backfield. Sewell and Flowe are holding their own in battles for reps at linebacker with vets including Isaac Slade-Matautia, Dru Mathis and MJ Cunningham; on the defensive line, coaches have been thrilled with the development of second-year players Brandon Dorlus, Kristian Williams and Keyon Ware-Hudson.
"I feel good about our camp," Cristobal said. "I feel good about the way our guys are developing."
Practice highlights: Anthony Brown had a long touchdown pass in the first half to Hutson, and another of intermediate length to Josh Delgado. … Hutson also caught a TD pass during red-zone work from Robby Ashford, and Tyler Shough had scoring passes in that period to Johnny Johnson III and Mycah Pittman. … Benson and KJ Maduike had short-yardage rushing touchdowns in the red-zone period. …
MJ Cunningham had an interception in the second half, and Adrian Jackson batted down a pass by leaping high into the air at the line of scrimmage. Daewood Davis broke up a pass in the end zone during the red-zone period… Camden Lewis closed the scrimmage by rushing onto the field in a late-game, no-timeouts scenario and making a field goal from around 43 yards out.
Other observations: Both of the top two quarterbacks looked efficient moving the chains in third-down work. You can see how much new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead's scheme and its use of RPOs can keep a defense on its toes in that situation. … Along with catching passes with the two-deep, Hutson is in the mix to field punts along with veterans Travis Dye and Pittman. …
Mykael Wright and Davis have been getting reps as deep men with the kickoff return team. … Following practice, Cristobal announced to the team that offensive lineman Ryan Walk and linebacker Nate Heaukulani (each pictured above) had been awarded scholarships.