Football Practice Report: April 13
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Now juniors with the Oregon football program, CJ Verdell and Travis Dye aren't being shy about where they want to help take the Ducks.
The two running backs, who have combined for nearly 4,400 rushing yards the last three years, are thinking big as the fall of 2021 approaches. Big as in not only contending for a third straight Pac-12 Championship, but for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
"That's definitely the main goal," Verdell said Tuesday, after the Ducks kicked off their third week of this year's spring practice schedule. "We feel we've got the guys to do that, so that's pretty much where everybody's head is at."
Verdell is coming off a 2020 season that saw him miss both postseason games due to a significant thumb injury. He had run for 1,000 yards in each of the previous two seasons, and his individual goal for 2021 is double that — 2,000 yards.
"I feel I can get it; my coaches feel like I can get it," Verdell said. "It's up to me."
With Verdell limited by injury, Dye was the Ducks' leading rusher last fall, with 443 yards. But he also had a career-high 239 receiving yards and four touchdowns, playing an all-purpose role under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
"He put me in a spot and a position where I can make plays, where I can get the ball into open space — where I live," Dye said. "It's just been a really fun time with Coach Moorhead and the things he's done."
This spring, Dye and Verdell have taken ample practice reps. Younger backs Sean Dollars and Trey Benson have been sidelined by injuries, meaning an increased workload for the vets, along with Cross Patton and new addition Aaron Smith.
Dye called the workload "pretty tough" but also "real fun" so far this spring. And he can sympathize with his injured teammates, having been in their shoes before.
"It's not fun watching other people play and getting reps, and you're not getting any," Dye said. "But I'm here for Sean and Trey, making sure they're mentally right so when they get back, they get back rolling. My heart goes out to those guys. I'm calling them every single day to make sure they're good."
Practice highlights: On Saturday, Anthony Brown clearly looked like the Ducks' most efficient quarterback in red-zone work, but the young guys showed progress in that area Tuesday. Brown still looked sharp — his first rep of the period was a touchdown pass to Devon Williams. But Ty Thompson also had a couple TD passes in the red zone, and both Robby Ashford and Jay Butterfield rushed for touchdowns. … Jordan Happle intercepted a ball that was tipped at the line in a team period, and Max Wysocki had an interception in 7-on-7. …
Jackson Powers-Johnson pancaked a linebacker during the first 11-on-11 period of the day. … In 1-on-1 pass drills, Daymon David and Trikweze Bridges had breakups, while Mycah Pittman made the sort of acrobatic, one-handed reception that he has made commonplace in the last couple years.
Other observations: Mario Cristobal had said some depth chart movement could begin this week, but the Ducks' practice rotation was largely unchanged Tuesday. … The wind picked up during portions of practice, notably during punt drills. Even a light breeze can play havoc with a punter's drop — the fraction of a second from when he releases it from his hand to when he connects with his foot — but Tom Snee not only managed to execute his drop during the period, he took advantage of the wind on one attempt that travelled perhaps 65 yards in the air. … Spencer Webb scored some hustle points late in practice, tracking down a defender who had picked up a muffed exchanged in the backfield. Webb caught him from behind maybe 25 yards downfield and punched the ball out.