Football Practice Report: Nov. 18
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
As practice began Wednesday for the Oregon football team, the Ducks went through their stretch period under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld, then ran to the center of the Moshofsky Center's field for one last huddle prior to position drills.
All of that was in keeping with routine. But then came a break from routine, at least for the defense, which went directly into a circuit of tackling drills.
In the wake of last week's win at Washington State, correcting turnovers on offense and cleaning up tackling on defense have been major points of emphasis. The UO defense took direct action to address the concerns about tackling right off the bat Wednesday.
"Obviously we've got to improve tackling," defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said earlier this week. "That was an objective going into (last week's) game; with that kind of offense, being a spread offense and really quick and shifty players on the perimeter, we knew that was going to be a huge challenge for us.
UCLA should pose a similar challenge this week, spreading the field and getting the ball to players in space. So the focus is no less acute for the Ducks.
"Obviously we've got to do a better job of planning how we're going to do it in organized drills, and emphasizing it in team periods," Avalos said. "Making sure we understand that, Tuesday and Wednesday (when the team practices in full pads), that's when we're getting our fit in terms of tackling."
Though the team was in full pads twice this week, Mario Cristobal didn't subject them to heightened injury risk. The emphasis on tackling in drills was during work with pads and tackling dummies. Details like leverage and angle of attack and wrapping up with both arms were emphasized.
The work on offense has been similarly focused, to cut down on the turnovers that put Oregon in an early hole before the Ducks came from behind to beat the Cougars.
"They have to improve," Cristobal said of both turnovers and tackling. "Those things can destroy your game and destroy your season if you don't fix it.
"Has it been a point of emphasis? Absolutely. Does it have to show up? Undoubtedly. It has to show up in every rep in practice, in our mentality as we approach the game, and certainly on game day. Our players understand how important that is. We've been hammering that, we've been driving it home, and we expect to get better results."
Practice highlights: The weekly 2-minute drill required Tyler Shough to lead the offense back from a four-point deficit with less than a minute to play. Right off the bat, Cyrus Habibi-Likio got the offense from midfield down to the red zone with an explosive play, and two snaps later Kris Hutson caught a touchdown pass from Sough. … That was the last of several instances in which the No. 1 offense looked really sharp Wednesday. Shough had a couple completions to Johnny Johnson III in the "turbo" drill that served as the first 11-on-11 period, and in a "good-on-good" period later in practice, Shough had long touchdown passes to Devon Williams and Jaylon Redd. …
Sean Dollars got things started early with the No. 2 offense, breaking free for a long touchdown during the "turbo" drill. … In a service period for the No. 1 defense against the twos on offense, Jamal Hill intercepted a pass on the first rep. The service squad weren't pushovers, though, with Isaah Crocker hauling in a deep ball from Robby Ashford and Trey Benson exploding into the second level for a long run. … Johnson was on the receiving end of one of the day's loudest hits. Jordan Adeyemi-John thudded up Johnson with authority near the sideline, though Johnson hung on to the ball for a solid gain.
Other observations: Oregon's game Saturday against UCLA will kick off at 12:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN2, it was announced Wednesday afternoon. The game was originally scheduled for Friday but was moved back a day after UCLA's game last week against Cal was played on Sunday. … Defensive lineman Popo Aumavae returned to practice Wednesday, and Cristobal said he will be available to play Saturday. Tight ends Hunter Kampmoyer and Cam McCormick also are practicing and will be evaluated closer to game time to assess their availability against the Bruins. …
Two more tight ends, Spencer Webb and Patrick Herbert, are questionable to play this week, Cristobal said. Defensive back Daewood Davis, linebacker Justin Flowe, receiver Mycah Pittman and Steve Stephens IV will not be available Saturday.
Head coach Mario Cristobal
Sophomore safety Verone McKinley III
Junior safety Bennett Williams
Sophomore safety Jamal Hill