Football Practice Report: Sept. 22
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Two of Oregon's most consistent performers through three games this season are also two of the Ducks' best examples of resiliency and mental toughness.
Placekicker Camden Lewis is one of just three Pac-12 kickers with at least three field-goal attempts without a miss so far this season. That success has come less than a year after Lewis was surpassed on the depth chart by Henry Katleman, who was perfect on four attempts after winning the job.
Punter Tom Snee, meanwhile, has put nine of his 15 attempts this fall inside the opponent's 20-yard line, with four punts of at least 50 yards. Snee has been able to stay focused on improvement despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have denied the native of Australia the ability to visit home.
"It's been gratifying coming through," Snee said Wednesday.
Recruited to Oregon in 2018, Snee averaged 35.2 yards per punt before watching walk-on Blake Maimone handle the job in 2019. Snee took over again last season, and through three games in 2021 he has been "more than a good player — he's a weapon now," UO coach Mario Cristobal said.
The emergence of Snee and Lewis this fall — or more accurately, the re-emergence of each — is a testament to their work ethic and Oregon's player development.
"I know the job I'm here to do, I know what's required of me and just having that mental clarity has helped me to take that next step," Snee said. "I think more than anything just getting comfortable over time has really helped me start kicking more consistently, and take my game to the next level."
Lewis arrived at Oregon in 2019 and enjoyed the unforgettable experience of making a walk-off kick to beat Washington State that fall. But he was 1-of-4 to start the 2020 season, and focused on kickoff duty while Katleman took over field goals late in the year.
Lewis said his practice performance improved late in the 2020 season. But by then Katleman was consistently making kicks for the Ducks, as the two friends pushed each other to stay at the top of their respective games.
Katleman continued to have the advantage this spring. But Lewis regained an edge during preseason camp, by sticking to his practice program and blocking out public criticism stemming from his performance last season.
"You just can't give up; you can't ever just give in," Lewis said. "I knew what I was capable of, I knew what I can do, and it really came down to believing in myself. … I just continued to make kicks, continued to be confident in myself and it worked out."
When a player struggles the way Lewis did last year, Cristobal said, coaches owe them the respect of being honest in their evaluation, and the responsibility of laying out a path to improvement. It's the coaches' job to keep encouraging the player, and it's the player's job to keep a positive attitude as they try to get back on track. And Lewis embraced that responsibility.
"I can't say enough good things about the way he approached that," Cristobal said. "A lot of guys, they buckle, they point, they blame, and he didn't. That's valuable for an entire program to witness. That really drives culture."
Practice highlights: As always, Wednesday's practice ended with a 2-minute drill. The No. 1 defense got off the field when DJ Johnson jumped on a loose ball for a fumble recovery. With the No. 2 units on the field, the offense evened the scales when Seven McGee found the end zone. … In work against the scout team, Dontae Manning had interceptions on back-to-back reps and Jaylin Davies also had a pick. … Kris Hutson was the standout of 1-on-1 receiving drills conducted in the red zone, making a couple of really tough catches in the end zone despite tight coverage.
Other observations: Speaking of Hutson, he's half of what has become an ongoing "iron-sharpens-iron" battle with cornerback Mykael Wright. As starters they can end up matched up when the team goes "good on good," but they seem to seek each other out as well in smaller drills like 1-on-1s, and they're bringing out the best in each other. … Cristobal said after practice that quarterback Anthony Brown is "good to go" after missing the second half of last week's win over Stony Brook. Cristobal said Troy Franklin, Mase Funa, Steven Jones and Keith Brown are also in line to return after missing all or part of that game, and that defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is "still day to day, but it's close." Bradyn Swinson is less likely to play this week, and safety Daymon David is close to being ready "if not this week then next week," Cristobal said.
Head coach Mario Cristobal
Sophomore defensive end Brandon Dorlus
Sophomore safety Steve Stephens IV
Freshman defensive tackle Jayson Jones
Freshman edge defender Brandon Buckner