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Football Practice Report: April 15

Apr 15, 2021

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

With the notable exception of quarterback, much of the personnel on Oregon's offense this spring is familiar. The offensive line returned intact, and at the skill positions, veterans like CJ Verdell, Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd all chose to return as well.

It's a different story on defense for the Ducks. Not only is there a new coordinator, Tim DeRuyter, but some notable key players from the 2020 season are now training for the NFL draft, including cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, nose tackle Jordon Scott and defensive lineman Austin Faoliu.

The changing of the guard might be most dramatic in the middle of the defensive front. Scott and Faoliu both were four-year contributors for the Ducks. In their absence, Popo Aumavae is a veteran presence, but it also is the time to shine for 2019 recruits including Brandon Dorlus, Kristian Williams and Keyon Ware-Hudson (below).

"It feels good to be part of the equation and to be counted on," Dorlus said Thursday. "It's a big responsibility, but I just can't wait for the season to start."

Dorlus said his goals for this season are to become more consistent against the run, and more disruptive in the pass rush. He also wants to be an effective leader for younger defensive linemen like Jayson Jones and Keanu Williams.

Dorlus is a year ahead of his recruiting classmates Ware-Hudson, Williams and Sua'ava Poti, because he played as a true freshman while they redshirted in 2019. But this fall, they'll all be in the mix to replace the production of departed veterans Scott and Faoliu.

On Saturday, the Ducks hit the midpoint of this year's spring practice. They'll mark it with a scrimmage inside Autzen Stadium, a chance for Dorlus and the D line to cut it loose against Oregon's offensive line.

"We get to go out there and hit a little bit, see what the young guys got," Dorlus said. "I can't wait to go out and compete, show what I got."

Dorlus and his classmates are looking to step into bigger roles in the absence of departed seniors this year, just as Oregon's offensive line did a year ago after the graduation of Jake Hanson, Calvin Throckmorton and others. Dorlus said the offensive linemen who took over the position in 2020 also are showing progress this spring.

"They're bringing it, they're better," Dorlus said. "They're working us, and we're giving them work. Iron sharpens iron, every day."

Practice highlights: Practice Thursday ended with a 2-minute drill, and as tends to be the case early in a camp, the defense had the edge. Anthony Brown drove the No. 1 offense into the red zone with passes to Devon Williams, Mycah Pittman and Spencer Webb, but time expired before they could score. The No. 2 defense forced a fumble and recovered it to win their scenario, and safety Daymon David — "Scoop" to everybody within the program — intercepted a pass to get the No. 3 defense off the field (above). …

The defense was really disruptive in an 11-on-11 period heavy on play-action passing situations. Ware-Hudson anticipated a screen pass, put a hand up and plucked a pass out of the air before rumbling the other way. Verone McKinley III and Adrian Jackson also tipped passes at the line, and Jones and Ware-Hudson had tackles for loss — Ware-Hudson make his with help from penetration by linebacker Nate Heaukulani. … Terrance Ferguson made a safety pay for trying to tackle him up high, aggressively shouldering the defensive back aside. … Jones and Bradyn Swinson had really impressive reps in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills, as did Kingsley Suamataia and Jackson Powers-Johnson for the offense.

Other observations: Cristobal said Saturday's workout will begin like a traditional practice before ending with a scrimmage. "You can just cut the day in half, where the first half will be heavy on technique, fundamentals, situations, and the second half will be live ball." … Steven Jones continues to play primarily right tackle but worked a series Thursday on the left side. … Thursday's practice was really lively, with guys jawing at each other here and there. Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal made sure his group stayed focused, reminding them repeatedly, "The only thing that matters is what you do next."