Football Practice Report: Oct. 22
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Fast Friday
Cross Patton has received a couple of messages lately that resonated deeply with the UO redshirt freshman running back. He even delivered an important message himself this week.
Now in his third year in the Oregon football program, Patton brings some veteran wisdom to the team's developmental squad. He also brings a healthy dose of explosive athleticism, which has helped Patton be named a scout-team player of the week several times already this season, including after last week's win over California.
That's a role whose importance is appreciated all the way at the top of the program — following Friday's final workout for the Ducks before Saturday's game at UCLA, head coach Mario Cristobal began his post-practice remarks to the team with a shout-out to the efforts of the scout team this week.
"That's just a great thing to hear, that the head man is always watching," Patton said a few minutes later. "Just another reminder to keep working, and our time will come."
Patton is a primary running back for the scout team most weeks, along with Aaron Smith. But almost any time position coach Jim Mastro breaks down his depth chart, he includes Patton as a player with the potential to help in a game if need be.
So far, opportunities have been sparing, with Patton making two appearances last season and two more this year, in Oregon's wins over Stony Brook and Arizona. But Patton notices when Mastro includes him in discussions of the running back position, and appreciates it.
"It's just extra motivation, because I know it's like, it's right there," Patton said. "I just have to keep working and keep giving my all in everything I do, and eventually you'll get there."
The running back depth took a hit recently when starter CJ Verdell was lost for the season due to injury. Patton said his father called after hearing the news, with further encouragement to be ready if his number were to be called.
"You know the coaches are seeing you every day, and they make sure that you know they're watching," Patton said. "So keep working hard every day, every single rep of practice, because they see it."
As something of a veteran of the developmental squad, Patton said he has delivered that message to younger players who are adjusting to life on the scout team, after being standouts in high school. Patton knows what it's like to experience some discouragement at times, and also knows how important it is to push through that and bring a sustained effort in practice.
In that leadership role for the scout team, Patton said he had a message for his development-squad teammates this week, including his fellow running back, Smith. UCLA leads the Pac-12 in rushing attempts per game, and is second in yardage with 219.9 per game. Individually, Zach Charbonnet is second in the conference with 99.6 yards per game, and Brittain Brown is seventh at 66.7 yards per game.
Each of those backs stands 6-foot-1 and weighs over 200 pounds. At 5-6, 155 pounds, Patton can't match their size. But he can still provide a good preview for the UO defense of what they'll see Saturday, by running with power and intensity.
"Everyone knows it's gonna be a big game — not because it's, like, UCLA, but because it's the next game and it's a conference game," Patton said. "I had a talk with all the scout-team players, just to make sure the defense got a good look, and the look they're going to see Saturday.
"With the running backs I was just like, we've got to run hard all week, because that's something we'll see Saturday. Aaron is a big back" — Smith is 5-11, 211 pounds — "and I was like, you're gonna have to give it to them today, and every day this week."
Developmental-squad scrimmage highlights: As tends to be the case, the weekly 10-minute scrimmage for the scout-team players each Fast Friday gets progressively more explosive, with big plays on each side. This week, safety Marko Vidackovic started things out with a bang, stopping a running back in his tracks on the opening play. On the first play of the next possession, Vidackovic made his presence felt again, diving for an interception. … Another standout defensively was Jonathan Flowe, who showed off his speed and power a couple of different times by ranging from the middle of the defense out to the edge to bring down receivers after short passes. …
The passing game is getting sharper as well, with Bradley Yaffe bouncing back from the interception to complete his last five attempts of the scrimmage. Three of them were receptions by Spencer Curtis — on one, Curtis showed off his concentration by hauling in a pass that a teammate tipped but couldn't secure. And on another, Curtis got the ball in space and turned it into a big gain thanks to a block from Korbin Williams. … Dont'e Thornton also had an explosive play for the offense, making a catch over the middle and refusing to be dragged down from behind while fighting for more yards.