5 Impressions From Media Day
Preseason camp begins for the Oregon football team Friday, when the Ducks take the field for their first fall practice under new head coach Dan Lanning.
To mark the approach of practices, Lanning and several players participated Wednesday morning in the program's annual preseason media day. Below are some impressions gathered from more than two hours' of interviews conducted at The Club in Autzen Stadium.
1. Competition in August will be fierce, and across the board.
Any time a starting quarterback needs to be replaced, that's going to be a major storyline the following preseason. And thus, the first question posed to Lanning on Wednesday morning was about the practice plan for quarterbacks Jay Butterfield, Bo Nix and Ty Thompson.
"We're going to compete at quarterback," Lanning said, "like we do at every position."
Nix is a transfer with significant college experience, and the Ducks have guys with similar résumés throughout the roster – both veterans of Oregon's program itself, or transfers who played extensively elsewhere. That said, players can't get too comfortable regardless of their previous playing time.
"We have freshmen who are ready to go," defensive lineman Bradyn Swinson said. "They're hungry."
Oh, and about those quarterbacks – we might not know how that competition plays out until the Ducks take the field for their season opener against Georgia.
"If I felt like it gave us a competitive advantage to tell you, I would," Lanning said with a wide smile. "I won't."
2. The Ducks are having fun preparing together for the season.
The culture of Oregon football seems to be in good hands under Lanning.
"I feel like I'm a kid again playing football," safety Bennett Williams said. "It's so joyful."
The offseason has included several team-building opportunities, from paint ball to pool parties to barbecues. Some of the backyard gatherings included games of cornhole, at which Butterfield apparently is a standout.
He isn't undefeated, though. Lanning said that on Tuesday night he was able to knock off the duo of Butterfield and Thompson – with much help from Lanning's teammate, defensive analyst Connor Boyd.
"I wouldn't say that I carried the team," Lanning joked.
3. The guys coming off injuries are raring to go.
Brandon Dorlus spent spring practices mostly watching along with fellow veteran D linemen Popo Aumavae and Keyon Ware-Hudson. They're all champing at the bit to get back onto the practice field Friday, as are some other Ducks who spent this offseason getting healthy.
Among them is linebacker Justin Flowe, who said Wednesday, "I feel really good. I feel mentally prepared and my body feels great."
Running back Sean Dollars was able to practice in the spring, after missing last season due to injury. After sitting out last fall, he's back in the mix as this fall approaches.
"I'm 120 percent locked in to whatever comes my way," Dollars said.
4. New faces are eager to fill perceived voids in the lineup.
Along with quarterback, the Ducks have some other prominent departed players to replace in the defensive backfield and at punter, where Tom Snee has stepped away from the team to focus on his mental health.
Players are eager to prove that, where there are questions about the Oregon roster, there also are answers.
"The coaching staff we have, the coach I have, we're going at it every day," said cornerback Dontae Manning, who will be in the mix to replace departed starters Mykael Wright and DJ James. "Iron sharpens iron."
At punter, the Ducks welcomed transfers Adam Barry and Ross James to challenge for reps.
"We brought in some guys we think can compete," Lanning said. "We feel really confident about it."
5. Spencer Webb's memory will live on with the 2022 Ducks.
The Ducks are still grieving the loss of tight end Spencer Webb in an accident over the summer. Lanning wants to see his players channel that energy when they take the practice field Friday.
"We want to make sure our guys do a great job of honoring him by the way they work," Lanning said.
Williams, who wore No. 15 last season, was planning to switch to his childhood number for this season, No. 4. Within days, the other No. 4 on the roster, Webb, was lost in the accident. The jersey change for Williams took on added meaning.
"It kind of felt like it all aligned for me," Williams said. "It's really special, and it feels like I get to play with him."