Football Practice Report: Sept. 17
Venue: Autzen Stadium
Format: Fast Friday
When Lucas Noland walked on with the Oregon football team in 2018, he laid out a series of incremental goals for himself.
The first was to become a standout with the developmental squad, which he achieved by being named a scout-team player of the year for the program that first fall. The next was to earn a spot with the Ducks' travel squad for road games, which took a couple more years.
After checking that box, the next goal for Noland was actual playing time in games. That is now a regular occurrence, as the safety from Tualatin played in the last five games of the 2020 season before appearing in each of Oregon's first two games this fall, entering Saturday's home game against Stony Brook (4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Special teams have provided the primary path to playing time for Noland, who has participated on kickoff return, kickoff coverage and punt return.
"To a casual fan, special teams might not be the main guys that people look out for," Noland said. "But for somebody like me, that was huge. That was the next step in the goal, and I was proud to finally get time on the field no matter the role."
Noland continues to contribute with the developmental squad. He was named one of the Ducks' scout-team players of the week following the season-opening win over Fresno State, and he was back at work in the team's developmental squad scrimmage Friday morning.
But Noland has stayed busy on Saturdays this season as well. Where once the son of UO graduates watched games from the stands in Autzen Stadium with his brothers (below), now he's playing in them. Including last week, contributing to Oregon's historic win at Ohio State, which Noland's father attended.
"I might have only played a couple reps on special teams, but to play at Ohio State and be part of that victory, I try to hold onto that and be proud of that," Noland said. "I always want to do more; you always want to have a bigger role. But I'm also proud of my role on the team, and what I'm doing."
When Noland arrived at Oregon, among his role models was former UO defensive back Sean Killpatrick, another guy who walked on before earning himself playing time on special teams. Noland eventually wants to pass the baton himself to redshirt freshman Max Wysocki, 2020 freshman Marko Vidackovic and 2021 newcomer Dane Sipos.
Their path to playing time won't be easy; Noland experienced some disappointment when his efforts to make the travel squad didn't bear fruit in 2019. But he stayed the course and earned such a spot the next season, tenacity that can provide a lesson to those looking to follow in his footsteps.
"Fortunately the coaches have been awesome; they've always done a great job of expressing their appreciation whatever my role was, even if I wasn't playing in actual games," Noland said. "If you keep working hard, you'll find a spot. I'm proud of that — proud of getting to that point on the team and traveling and contributing on Saturdays."
Safeties Dane Sipos and Max Wysocki wrap up tight end Cooper Shults during Friday's scrimmage.
Developmental squad scrimmage highlights: Bradley Yaffe completed his first three passes of the Ducks' weekly 10-minute scrimmage for the scout-team guys, including a pass Spencer Curtis held onto despite absorbing a big hit from Noland … Cross Patton took a screen pass from Yaffe and got to the sideline for a sizable chunk of yardage. …
On the opening play of the scrimmage, Darren Barkins broke up a pass intended for Dont'e Thornton. … Running room was hard to come by for the backs. Wysocki had a tackle for loss, and there were stops near the line of scrimmage by Jonathan Flowe, Miguel Nevarez and Sipos.