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Football Practice Report: Nov. 2

Nov 2, 2021

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

By this point in the season, Oregon's secondary has learned to roll with the punches.

The Ducks opened the season without two projected starters due to an off-field incident. They lost big-play safety Bennett Williams to a leg injury, then played last week without another veteran, Jordan Happle. In that game last week, a win over Colorado, both starting safeties – Steve Stephens IV and Verone McKinley III – dealt with injury issues of their own.

At this point, change has been a constant for the UO defensive backfield.

"We've got a real resilient team," nickel safety Jamal Hill said Tuesday, after the Ducks' first of two padded practices this week prior to playing at Washington on Saturday (4:30 p.m., ABC). "I don't feel like no situation is too big for this team to handle our business and be 1-0.

When Stephens had to be helped off the field last week, former receiver Bryan Addison took over his safety spot with the No. 1 defense. McKinley ultimately returned to the field later in the game, but the Ducks lost reserve Daymon David during the Colorado game as well.

This week, there's hope Happle will return, and that the guys injured against the Buffaloes can as well. But at this point, Oregon's secondary is prepared for anything.

"The good thing is, we all prepare the same way," McKinley said. "In our (meeting) room, coach (Marcel) Yates does a good job of making sure we know all the positions. So when something does happen in a game, we can plug someone in and keep going."

Against Washington, walk-on Lucas Noland was called upon while McKinley was out. A standout with the scout team the last couple seasons, Noland has earned himself spots on some of Oregon's special teams units this fall. And though he practices with the scout team, he stays sharp on the UO playbook; defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said Noland had a perfect score on a written test of the Ducks' game plan prior to facing Colorado.

"It just gives other guys opportunities to grow," Hill said. "I feel like we're well-prepared for everything that's going on."

Practice highlights: A couple young linemen popped during 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. Kristian Williams gave offensive linemen fits with his quickness on the interior, while Marcus Harper II held his own a couple of times against no less a talent than Kayvon Thibodeaux. … In 1-on-1 passing drills, Jay Butterfield had a couple of really pretty deep balls, to Tevin Jeannis and Dont'e Thornton. But David was able to break up the pass to Jeannis, a few reps after Jaylin Davies ripped a ball out while Isaah Crocker was trying to complete a really acrobatic reception. …

In a "good-on-good" period that closed practice, the guy who jumped out was Jeffrey Bassa, with his ability to rally to the ball against the run. Bassa might have factored into that depth at safety in the breakdown above, but he has thrived since moving to inside linebacker due to injuries there. … Tips and overthrows: Max Wysocki was able to snag an interception in just that situation Tuesday.

Other observations: The last periods of work for the scout-team offense against the travel squad on defense were really lively, with both sides making plays and a lot of chatter. At this point football teams are entering their fourth month of practice this season, but there was no sense Tuesday the Ducks are feeling any monotony from their routine. "We want practice to be harder than the game," McKinley said. "For us to have such a competitive spirit, and the scout team coming at us … that just makes us all get better. And it helps them get better as well." …

Practice was conducted prior to the release of the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings, in which the Ducks ended up being ranked No. 4. "Shoot," Hill said, "if you lose, it don't matter. We just try to go 1-0 every week and let everything else handle itself." … Former UO defensive back Ugochukwu Amadi, now a standout with the Seattle Seahawks, attended practice. The Seahawks are currently in their bye week.

Post-practice interviews:

Sophomore safety Verone McKinley III

Sophomore edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux

Freshman linebacker Jeffrey Bassa