Football Practice Report: Nov. 10
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
To be in the chase for status as an elite program nationwide means always to be on alert for potential breakdowns in execution.
Thus, for as happy as the UO football team was to leave Seattle with a win over Washington this past Saturday, the Ducks also knew their performance wasn't perfect. Among the areas head coach Mario Cristobal wanted to see addressed before Oregon returns to the field, at home against Washington State this Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN), was the kickoff and punt coverage teams.
Generally speaking, Oregon's coverage teams have been solid in 2021. Even after allowing returns of 21, 25 and 43 yards to the Huskies, the Ducks rank second in the Pac-12 in punt coverage this week, and eighth in kickoff coverage. But Cristobal wants more.
"I thought we have improved the past couple days," Cristobal said Wednesday, following the Ducks' second of two practices this week in full pads. "And it's been stressed."
Entering last week, the Ducks had allowed only 21 total punt return yards in eight games. Then, in the second quarter at Washington, UW return man Giles Jackson popped a return of 21 yards — doubling the amount Oregon had allowed on the season.
Jackson added a 25-yard kickoff return later in the second quarter, after the Ducks took a 10-9 lead. And he broke loose for a return of 43 yards on the kickoff after Oregon scored to go up 17-9 in the fourth quarter.
None of those returns sparked a scoring drive by the Huskies. But that performance isn't something the Ducks want to see become precedent.
"We gotta coach it better," Cristobal said. "And then you have to have a willingness to go down there and throw your body around. It's November; everything hurts. You gotta be willing to play with a certain level of physicality on those teams."
At least during kickoff coverage drills Wednesday, it seemed like the Ducks had heard the message. And they responded loudly — as in, the pads were popping for that practice period.
From Adrian Jackson to Jeffrey Bassa, from Seven McGee to Dont'e Thornton, members of the UO coverage team were flying down the field, engaging blockers aggressively and then shedding those blocks to make tackles.
"I think we've achieved at a better level," Cristobal said. "And we're looking for more improvement. So let's go find out on Saturday about our coverage teams."
Practice highlights: The weekly 2-minute drill featured a couple of exceptional efforts by receivers. With the ones on the field needing a touchdown, Kris Hutson was doing battle with a defensive back and tipped a pass a couple of times to keep the ball alive, then reached to secure the grab just before the ball hit the turf. … With the twos up, Jay Butterfield found Isaah Crocker streaking toward the goal line. Crocker had to adjust his route just a bit, while running full speed, and did so just in time to make a phenomenal grab in the back of the end zone. …
During an earlier team period, Anthony Brown wrapped up a series for the ones by hitting Troy Franklin with a deep ball. The twos came onto the field for the next rep and nearly hit the defense with a similar play, but cornerback Devin Morrow broke up the pass. … In 1-on-1 drills in the red zone, Spencer Webb had a one-handed touchdown grab while Jaylin Davies made an interception. … Dontae Manning blocked a kick in field-goal drills.
Other observations: Kayvon Thibodeaux is hard enough to block as it is, so giving him extra motivation doesn't make a lot of sense. During pass-rush drills Wednesday, he did a rep with a blocker that might have perhaps been judged a stalemate. One of the players watching commented that Thibodeaux didn't get to the quarterback. Thibodeaux asked aloud, "I didn't get there?" Challenge accepted — he got down into his stance for another rep and blew past the blocker for a sack.
Senior defensive back Jordan Happle
Junior defensive lineman Popo Aumavae
Junior offensive lineman Alex Forsyth
Sophomore linebacker Mase Funa
Sophomore defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus
Sophomore kicker Camden Lewis