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Football Practice Report: Aug. 6

Aug 6, 2021

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Spider pads

A year after preseason camp didn't begin until October, the Oregon football team got back to work under more typical circumstances Friday with the first practice of the 2021 season.

The Ducks held their first of 25 workouts prior to their Sept. 4 season opener against Fresno State in Autzen Stadium. Practice began under cool, partly cloudy skies but by late morning the temperature on the practice fields was quite warm; with knowing smiles on their faces, veterans reminded freshmen to be diligent about hydration as camp progresses.

"Football shape is a little different than weight-room shape; you can see there's a gap there we have to close, and that's part of camp," said UO coach Mario Cristobal, who is kicking off his fourth season as head coach of the two-time Pac-12 champs. "But a lot of guys just doing a really good job with technique and fundamentals; we still have a ways to go, but overall execution on the first day was solid."

An NCAA rule change has lengthened the build-up to full pads in preseason camp, so the Ducks were in small "spider" pads Friday and will be until the sixth practice of camp, on Thursday. By that point, Cristobal said, the coaching staff would like to have the bulk of its schemes installed. The Ducks will scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 14, and then will have another week to review those schemes and tweak them before transitioning to game prep the week of the Fresno State game.

Freshman inside linebackers Justin Flowe and Jonathan Flowe.

The practice schedule Friday was similar to those of years past, beginning with drills in small groups such as 1-on-1 or 3-on-2, progressing to 7-on-7 and ultimately into 11-on-11 situations. As Cristobal said would be the case, Anthony Brown took reps at quarterback with the No. 1 offense.

"We expect the competition to bring out the best in everybody," Cristobal said. "If it doesn't, we don't have the right guys. So we're gonna bring it at 'em hard, and we expect them to respond really well."

The Ducks took the field without safety Jamal Hill and cornerback DJ James, who are suspended indefinitely after an off-field incident earlier this week. Tight end DJ Johnson also was not on hand, but spirits were lifted by the presence for some drills of tight end Cam McCormick.

Cristobal said there's some optimism that McCormick, sidelined by injury since the opening play of the 2018 season, might be able to make it back on the field this fall.

"Hopefully," Cristobal said, "we'll get a great season for Cam and for the Ducks."

Sophomore defensive back Bryan Addison.

Practice highlights: Oregon's safeties made a big statement in 1-on-1 drills about their ability to cover. Bryan Addison, Steve Stephens IV, Jeffrey Bassa and Daymon David all his nice pass breakups in man coverage against the Ducks' talented receiving corps. … Freshman corner Darren Barkins had an interception in 7-on-7, and safety Max Wysocki hauled in a pass later in practice when a receiver and corner got tied up and the ball deflected into the air. …

In pass-rush drills, center Alex Forsyth backed up his status as a preseason Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy candidate by dominating a couple of reps at center. Defensively, Sua'ava Poti also had back-to-back dominant reps, showing off some explosion off the line that prompted Cristobal to note afterward that Poti had "a great day." … For all the talent at receiver, there's more in the pipeline: Newcomer Isaiah Brevard had two of the best highlights of the day in 11-on-11. He fought off tight coverage by Barkins to haul in a ball along the sideline, then moments later got deep downfield and elevated to high-point a pass from Ty Thompson. There seemed to be some question as to whether Brevard came down inbounds with the ball, but either way it was a heck of a catch.

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Sua'ava Poti.

Other observations: Early in practice the offensive line took the field as it did in spring, when Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu was out. That quintet featured George Moore, T.J. Bass, Forsyth, Ryan Walk and Steven Jones across the front, but later Aumavae-Laulu worked with the ones for a few reps, as did Jackson Powers-Johnson. … Troy Franklin is another freshman on offense who looks like he's already in consideration for some game reps this season. … The punt team got the most attention in special teams drills, and both Franklin and Bassa were with the No. 2 unit as true freshmen. … Among the players fielding punts in those periods were Kris Hutson, Mycah Pittman, Johnny Johnson III, Seven McGee and Mykael Wright.

Post-practice interview:

Head coach Mario Cristobal