Football Practice Report: April 8
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
At some point, UO head coach Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead will have to sit down and decide on a starter and primary backup at quarterback for the 2021 Oregon football team.
Early April is not that point. The Ducks held their fourth practice of this spring Thursday, and as the staff evaluates the play of their five quarterbacks, they're very much at the stage of accumulating information via practice reps.
Through four practices, senior Anthony Brown remains the exclusive recipient of first-team reps. Rotating behind him are second-year freshmen Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford, newcomer Ty Thompson and veteran Bradley Yaffe.
"I look at this as 15 opportunities to grow as a football team, and grow as a position unit," Moorhead said of the spring. "I think the guys are doing a nice job of taking advantage of those reps."
The Ducks were in full pads for the first time Thursday, and practice was heavy on extended periods of 11-on-11 work between the offense and defense. Practice periods are beginning to include situations in which the offense can move the ball downfield, but there haven't been many true scrimmage situations like a 2-minute drill or overtime situation.
It's all about reps, reps and more reps for the entire team, including the quarterbacks. Put a résumé on film, and let the coaches evaluate.
"At this stage of the season, we just want to see improvement from practice one to practice two, and on down the line to practice 15," Moorhead said.
Brown obviously stands out from the others in terms of experience. He started 28 games at Boston College before transferring to Oregon, and split time as the Ducks' No. 1 quarterback in the Pac-12 title game and the Fiesta Bowl last season.
"He's a very cool, calm customer," Moorhead said. "He's a guy who's played a lot of football. He's a guy who's extremely intelligent, and has a lot of ability as a thrower and a runner. … I think he's really seizing the opportunity, and understands the urgency that's required at this position."
Among the other quarterbacks, Ashford might be having the most interesting spring if for no other reason than because he's splitting time between the football and baseball teams. A center fielder on the diamond, Ashford only participated in one hour of each of the last three football practices, because each fell on the day of a baseball game.
Thursday, though, Ashford was able to participate in a full football practice for the first time this spring. The baseball team plays at home this week against Oregon State, with the series opening Friday.
"You've just gotta tip your hat to him, that he's able to run back and forth and be playing well in both of them," Moorhead said. "That's a credit to him."
Practice highlights: With the team in pads, practice opened with a full-contact, one-on-one blocking-and-tackling drill. Kingsley Suamataia and Jackson Powers-Johnson both had solid reps as blockers, and receiver Don't'e Thornton locked up a defender at the line. Kristian Williams shed a blocker and made a tackle, and Jeffrey Bassa also did a nice job getting off a block. … In 1-on-1 receiving drills, Spencer Webb had not one but two one-handed catches – on the first, he essentially trapped the ball in his flexed biceps before securing it with his hand. Steve Stephens IV showed great anticipation on jumping a route but was bobbling the ball as he went out of bounds. …
Lucas Noland had a really good day in coverage, breaking up a couple passes in 11-on-11 situations. One was a perfectly placed deep ball from Thompson right on Lance Wilhoite's hip. But Noland was running stride for stride with the receiver, and slapped it out. … Two others defenders made nice plays on screen passes – Trikweze Bridges jumped to deflect a ball the QB tried to loft over the tall, rangy corner, and Noah Sewell sniffed out a play to blast a receiver just after the ball arrived.
Other observations: The Ducks did a period of reps for the kickoff return team. Mykael Wright and Josh Delgado were the first tandem back deep to receive, followed by Jaylon Redd and Bassa. … Overall, the offense did a better job limiting turnovers after the defense got its hands on several balls Tuesday. JJ Greenfield had an interception late in the day but that was about it. … Right now most of the practice rotations are pretty static, until the Ducks do more live-action drills over the coming week. An exception is inside linebacker, where assistant Ken Wilson is mixing and matching duos and moving them up and down the depth chart.