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Football Practice Report: Sept. 21

Sep 21, 2021

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

When more than a dozen freshmen on the Oregon football team hit the field for practice Tuesday, they had a little extra wind in their sails from Saturday's win over Stony Brook.

Six members of the 2021 recruiting class made their collegiate debuts in the Ducks' win over the Seawolves. Several others played their biggest roles yet, from Terrance Ferguson starting at tight end and catching a touchdown, to Byron Cardwell, Seven McGee and Jackson Powers-Johnson contributing on offense after previously playing primarily on special teams.

The Ducks also were able to get playing time for some 2020 recruits who didn't see the field at all last season, including Trey Benson, Jaden Navarrette, Marcus Harper II and Jaylan Jeffers. That's at least 10 players who returned to practice this week now knowing what it's like to play in a college football game, and with an even better sense of what they need to work on to be ready for their next opportunity.

Powers-Johnson had played primarily special teams the first two weeks of the season, save for a four-snap series against Fresno State when center Alex Forsyth was cramping. Powers-Johnson played 15 snaps against Stony Brook, mostly during a sneak peek at the future of the UO offensive line with Suamataia, Faaope Laloulu (below), Harper and Jeffers.

While respectful of the challenges that lay ahead in his career, Powers-Johnson also indicated he came out of Saturday's performance confident he can compete at this level.

"For sure it's college football, but I learned that it's just a game, too," he said. "I want more, and I want to get out there as much as I can and help my team. It was a great experience."

Like Powers-Johnson, Ferguson has played in all three nonconference games this season. But he also played his biggest part yet against Stony Brook, setting blocks to spring CJ Verdell and Anthony Brown for Oregon's first two touchdowns of the game before catching a TD pass from Ty Thompson in the second half.

Ferguson said he built chemistry with Thompson not just in practices the last few months, but in extra work they would get in together outside of practices.

"After multiple times working on it, to see it come to life is really cool," Ferguson said.

Thompson also threw a touchdown pass to Dont'e Thornton, payoff for all the time Thompson said he invested trying to recruit Thornton to Oregon after Thompson himself had committed to the Ducks.

Thornton, Thompson, Ferguson and Powers-Johnson perhaps not coincidentally were members of the large contingent of class of 2021 recruits who finished high school early, and enrolled at Oregon in time for this year's spring practices.

"We all came in ready to play," Thompson said. "We saw the headlines – 'best class in school history' – and I don't think we let that get to our heads. We came in and worked."

Practice highlights: The first offense finished practice Tuesday with a bang during a good-on-good period. Cardwell got some run with that group and had a couple of really nice carries, and Brown zipped a pass to Devon Williams for a nice gain. With the twos on the field, the defense had a little more success. … Speaking of Williams, he had one of at least three circus catches in 1-on-1 drills. He was fighting for the ball with a defensive back, fell to the ground and maintained contact with the football to haul it in for a reception. And both Jaylon Redd and Thornton had wild one-handed grabs. …

Dontae Manning blocked another field goal. Gotta think it's only a matter of time until he's able to get to one in a game. His get-off time in that situation is just freakish. … Safety Max Wysocki earned some run with the travel squad at safety, and had an interception in a period against the scout team.

Other observations: Last Tuesday, the Ducks seemed to be a little on edge, wary of experiencing any letdown after the win at Ohio State. This Tuesday, the team was equally eager to stay locked in after feeing unsatisfied with elements of the win over Stony Brook. But rather than being on edge again, players largely seemed pleased with the level of focus and execution they were seeing from each other. … After making the move over to defense full-time due to a rash of injuries last week, DJ Johnson is back to cross-training as both a tight end and a defensive end.

Post-practice interviews:

Senior receiver Johnny Johnson III

Freshman quarterback Ty Thompson

Freshman offensive lineman Jackson Powers-Johnson