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Football Practice Report: Dec. 26

Dec 26, 2020

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Helmets and spider pads

Fiesta Bowl week is dawning for the Oregon football program.

The Ducks held a full practice inside the Moshofsky Center on Saturday, and will settle into their game-week routine beginning Sunday. It's all building towards the Fiesta Bowl against Iowa State on Jan. 2 (1 p.m., ESPN).

This hasn't been a typical month of bowl preparation for the Ducks. But then, very little about 2020 has been typical, for anyone.

The team took a weekend off to celebrate and recover from the Pac-12 Championship victory over USC on Friday, Dec. 18. Practices were held Tuesday through Thursday, and then the program was off for Christmas before resuming practice Saturday.

Generally bowl practices provide extended opportunities for younger players, and the coaching staff has tried to work some of those in despite the abbreviated bowl preparation period this year. Earlier in the week, Jayson Jones and Maceal Afaese took some reps with the No. 2 defensive line; on Saturday, there were reps on which true freshmen Jonathan Denis, Marcus Harper II and Faaope Laloulu were together on the No. 2 offensive line.

But the vast majority of the focus has been on preparing to face the Cyclones on Jan. 2. The Ducks have two quarterbacks they're confident in and who have been practicing well, in season-long starter Tyler Shough and also Anthony Brown, who was productive in situational work against USC. And the defense seems to be peaking at the right time, thanks in part to personnel stability that was fleeting earlier in the year due to injuries and a couple targeting suspensions.

Typically, the Ducks would be getting ready to hit the road for Arizona, to practice this week in the greater Phoenix area and participate in events around the community. Again, this year is anything but typical; the team won't travel until later in the week.

But whatever it looks like, game week begins for Oregon on Sunday. And ultimately, all that matters is being ready once the ball is kicked off in the Fiesta Bowl.

Practice highlights: A good omen? In one of the Ducks' practices prior to the Pac-12 title game, the very first rep of the very first 11-on-11 period was an interception by Verone McKinley III. On Saturday, history repeated itself — McKinley picked off a pass on the first rep of the first 11-on-11 period. … That was far from the only forced turnover in the period, with Bennett Williams picking off two passes and Jamal Hill intercepting one as well. Later in red-zone work, Deommodore Lenoir intercepted a pass in the end zone. …

Oregon's tight ends stole the show in 1-on-1 pass drills. Hunter Kampmoyer made a leaping catch along the sideline while shielding a defender away from the ball, and DJ Johnson made a catch on a crossing route despite having to reach back for a ball thrown slightly behind him. Not bad for a couple former defensive ends. … A good-on-good drill began with a couple tough catches by Mycah Pittman, but Kayvon Thibodeaux kept it from being three completions in a row by beating a tackle and forcing a rushed throw that was incomplete.

Other observations: The Ducks have relied on a six-man rotation on the offensive line most of the season, with Dawson Jaramillo waiting in the wings as the next man up. This week, Jaramillo has been a regular member of the primary rotation. .. Bryan Addison has been practicing on defense the last couple weeks, and he's starting to look pretty comfortable as a corner. Addison broke up a pass in the end zone during Saturday's red-zone period. … With a scout team now designated, Cale Millen is doing a little of everything again in practice, from quarterback to receiver to defensive back to special teams contributor.