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Football Practice Report: Aug. 16

Aug 16, 2021

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Spider pads

Oregon's tight end room has gotten significantly deeper and more athletic over the course of the last few months, which should help soften the blow of some disappointing news the Ducks got over the weekend, if only a little.

The Ducks held a scrimmage Saturday and seemed to get through it mostly healthy, with one significant exception. Redshirt freshman tight end Patrick Herbert, a Eugene native and younger brother of former UO quarterback Justin Herbert, was injured during drills prior to the scrimmage portion of Saturday's practice.

On Monday, UO coach Mario Cristobal shared with local media that Herbert will be "down for a while" due to the knee injury.

The arrival of freshmen Terrance Ferguson and Moliki Matavao in the spring, the return to health of veteran Cam McCormick and the appearance of DJ Johnson for his first preseason camp practice Saturday all had the Ducks feeling confident about their group behind Spencer Webb. But Herbert's injury is a blow nonetheless.

"With DJ joining us again and the way Cam is coming around, we feel good about the depth there," Cristobal said. "But we're certainly going to miss Patrick, because he was playing great football for us."

Herbert had been sharing time with Webb on Oregon's first-string offense in camp. Each is a naturally gifted receiving threat who has worked hard to become more physical as a blocker in the run game.

Johnson has two practices under his belt after Saturday's scrimmage and Monday's workout, and so can be in full pads later this week under NCAA acclimation rules. McCormick, who hasn't played since the 2018 season opener, got some reps in Saturday's scrimmage and is working toward finally returning to the rotation this fall.

Freshman tight end Terrance Ferguson

The X factors at the position are Ferguson and Matavao. Each emphatically announced his presence during spring drills, and has continued to enhance that first impression this preseason. Two more athletic options as receivers, Ferguson and Matavao earned more raves for their play in Saturday's scrimmage.

"And not just in the passing game," Cristobal said after reviewing film. "In the run game as well."

The duo was all over the field again Monday. Matavao took reps with Webb in sets with two tight ends, and Ferguson capped practice with a touchdown pass from Jay Butterfield in a red-zone drill.

Those would be welcome contributions in any context, but especially so after the difficult blow dealt to the position group with Herbert's injury.

Other highlights: Ferguson also nearly had the play of the day, reaching out to palm a one-handed catch in an 11-on-11 drill. He wasn't quite able to secure the reception, but teammates were impressed regardless. … The defense had a couple of impressive highlights in that period, with safety Bryan Addison anticipating a short route and jumping in front of the pass for an interception, and Trikweze Bridges soaring high into the air for a two-handed interception and holding on when he hit the ground. …

Sophomore defensive back Verone McKinley III

Jeffrey Bassa nearly had an interception earlier in practice but couldn't hang out. Brandon Buckner still provided a highlight for the defense in that period with a sack. … Later on as the red-zone drill got underway, Steve Stephens IV came up with an interception in the end zone, and Jabril McNeil sniffed out a run play to make a tackle for loss. … The last red-zone drive ending in Ferguson's touchdown nearly stalled in the "high red zone," but Dont'e Thornton turned a third-and-short play into a 23-yard gain to get the ball inside the 10-yard line.  

Other observations: In assessing the quarterbacks, Cristobal said senior Anthony Brown has had a "great camp" overall, and that Butterfield has taken a "massive step" this preseason. Cristobal said freshman Ty Thompson had the best scrimmage among the quarterbacks, and Thompson continued to share reps with Butterfield and Robby Ashford as of Monday. … Another freshman the Ducks have been excited about is offensive lineman Jackson Powers-Johnson, and although he wasn't able to scrimmage Saturday, he was back in action Monday. … The Ducks plan to be in full pads for Tuesday's practice, which was scheduled to be held in the evening.

Post-practice interviews:

Head coach Mario Cristobal