Skip to main content

Football Practice Report: Dec. 23

Dec 23, 2020

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Shells

The Oregon football team faced Michigan State to close out the 2018 season, Auburn to open the 2019 season, and Wisconsin in the 2020 Rose Bowl.

All three of those programs have reputations for being extremely stout at the line of scrimmage, a level of toughness that extends out to the skill positions as well. But when Mario Cristobal started studying this year's postseason opponent, Iowa State, the experience was eye-popping.

"It's the most physical team we've seen on tape — and I'm talking about since I've been here at Oregon," Cristobal said Wednesday, following the Ducks' second practice for the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 (1 p.m., ESPN).

The Athletic released its all-America teams Wednesday, including UO defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on the second team. The first team included Iowa State running back Breece Hall, who has run for 1,436 yards, and Cyclones linebacker Mike Rose, the Big 12 defensive player of the year.

Both have been known to leave opponents bruised and battered. Which is music to Oregon's ears.

"It's nothing new to us," defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus said. "It's going to be a good game, very physical up front. It's a good test."

Wednesday's practice was with shoulder pads on, for the only time this week as the Ducks methodically ramp up to game day. The team did tackling drills, and the linemen got after it with the same ferocity they would in full pads.

Cristobal came away pleased. But he knows the Ducks need to stack more days like that to be ready for Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl.

"We think we've had a great week so far," Cristobal said. "And we think it's going to get even better."

Practice highlights: In terms of "juice," Wednesday's practice was easily one of the best of the year. Pass-rush drills between the linemen were really energetic, with the respective units cheering on their position mates and jawing with guys from the other side of the ball. And then practice ended with a short scrimmage period for the developmental-squad guys, which had the veterans whooping and cheering on the sidelines with every play that was made. If the Ducks can bottle that energy, they'll be in good shape for the bowl game. …

Generally in pass-rush drills, guys will go head-to-head twice in a row before the drill rotates to the next pairing. But Cristobal called for a third, tiebreaking rep between both Sua'ava Poti and Marcus Harper II, and Jake Shipley and Dawson Jaramillo, because those battles were so competitive. Throughout the period, there were a couple pancakes by the offense, a couple guys driven backwards onto their keisters by the defense — and the linemen were loving it. Thibodeaux prowled around the perimeter of the drill, exhorting on his fellow defensive linemen and needling the offense. …

In the developmental-squad scrimmage, Robby Ashford had a long completion to Cross Patton on which the running back made a nice adjustment on the ball, and Cale Millen — splitting time again at receiver — had a reception from Jay Butterfield. Ashford and Bradley Yaffe had nice gains on keepers, and KJ Maduike ran well on a couple handoffs.

Other observations: The two placekickers were a perfect 6-for-6 in the field-goal period. They've been in lockstep much of the season — whether it's a perfect day like Wednesday, or a day when they're not as accurate, there's usually not much separation in practice between Henry Katleman and Camden Lewis. … It's not a perfect science, but sometimes you can get a sense for a young guy's trajectory based on the veterans he gravitates toward. Which is why it's very encouraging to see Bradyn Swinson often by Thibodeaux's side. … Cristobal said after practice the Ducks are hopeful freshman defensive back Dontae Manning might be available for the bowl game. Manning has played in one game so far this season.