Football Practice Report: April 20
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
When Oregon's offensive line was preparing for the 2019 season, they did so with 153 combined career starts to their name, the most in the country. That was the level of experience brought to the field by 2019 seniors Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson, Calvin Throckmorton, Brady Aiello and Dallas Warmack – not to mention sophomore Penei Sewell, who went on to win the Outland Trophy that season.
When Oregon's offensive line was preparing for the 2020 season, on the other hand, all six of those players were gone. The combined starting experience for the Ducks up front a year ago was precisely one – a start by Steven Jones when he was a true freshman in 2018.
As Oregon's offensive line prepares for the 2021 season, the Ducks still may not be as experienced as that 2019 group. But they also aren't as green as they were a year ago after a season of experience together, albeit one limited to seven games by the pandemic.
"After seven games playing together, we know what to expect from each other, and we know what the standard should be every day," guard Ryan Walk said. "And we're just trying to elevate that."
The Ducks primarily relied on a six-man rotation in 2020, made up of Jones, Walk, center Alex Forsyth, guard TJ Bass, tackle George Moore and the versatile Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. With Aumavae-Laulu rehabbing an injury this spring, most reps for the No. 1 offense feature a line of Moore, Bass, Forsyth, Walk and Jones, from left to right, with Dawson Jaramillo the sixth man and able to be plugged in pretty much anywhere.
The group had some fun in Saturday's scrimmage, the first play of which was a touchdown run of nearly 70 yards by CJ Verdell, who was basically untouched on the run. The next series took a little longer but ended the same way, with another touchdown for the No. 1 offense.
Now that the returners have some confidence born of experience, they're helping groom the generation that will follow them. Jonathan Denis, Marcus Harper II, Logan Sagapolu and Faaope Laloulu all got their feet wet as newcomers last fall, and this spring the line has seen encouraging flashes from Kingsley Suamataia, Jackson Powers-Johnson and Bram Walden.
"I think that's really going to help us as a team, having guys on the second unit who are ready to play this year," Walk said.
As the 2021 season draws closer with each passing day, Oregon's offensive line builds more confidence and more cohesion. They're not as green as they once were, even if they don't have quite as much experience as the 2019 unit.
"We're different from those guys," Moore said. "We're our own five. But they set a standard, and we just try to go out and reach that standard every day."
Practice highlights: The Ducks closed practice with a "4-minute/2-minute" scrimmage period. In the drill, one offensive unit tries to kill 4 minutes of clock with a lead, and if it's unsuccessful, another unit has the chance to run a 2-minute drill and come from behind. The scenario was drilled twice and there was something to like for both sides of the ball, as both defenses got the ball back in the 4-minute situation, while both offenses rallied to score in the 2-minute drill. ….
The No. 1 offense opened the drill backed up to its own goal line, and was unable to move the chains. Backed up to the end line, Tom Snee got off a magnificent punt, with the No. 2 offense taking over at its 32-yard line with 2:20 on the clock. Ty Thompson converted one third-and-long situation with his legs and another with a pass to Terrance Ferguson, setting up a "game-winning" field goal that Camden Lewis made. …
The drill was reset, this time starting out with the No. 2 offense on the field and Jay Butterfield at quarterback. He moved the chains once, by using a hard count to get the defense to jump offside, but ultimately there was another punt. Anthony Brown began the 2-minute situation with a long pass to Johnny Johnson III that got the ball into the red zone, and after killing the clock the No. 1 offense also won with a "game-winning" field goal, this one by Henry Katleman.
Other observations: The defense turned the tables on the first 11-on-11 rep of the day. Just like Saturday, the offense put the ball in the hands of Verdell, but this time Keyon Ware-Hudson wrapped him up near the line. … A couple pass receivers showed off their concentration by hauling in tipped balls. On one rep a defender arrived just as Patrick Herbert was about to make a reception, with the ball caroming in to the air. Herbert kept his head and hauled it back in. Later, Jordan Happle broke up a pass to Tevin Jeannis in a red-zone drill by slapping it away, but Jeannis stayed with it and made the catch before the ball hit the ground. …
Ball security has been pretty good for the offense the last few practices. Dru Mathis had an interception in the red-zone drill Tuesday but that was a rare exception. … Pass-rush drills were competitive as usual. Bradyn Swinson had a couple of really solid reps for the defense, and Moore held up well against talented pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Sagapolu and Sua'ava Poti each got the better of each other on two reps, and there was give-and-take on a rep between Moore and Mase Funa; Moore got a really good punch off the line to get himself set, but Funa kept with it and kept with it, and finished the rep well.