Venue: Autzen Stadium
Format: Full pads
For the final period of Saturday’s Oregon football practice inside Autzen Stadium, the Ducks held a full-contact, 11-on-11 drill inside the red zone.
As Anthony Brown and the first-string offense took the field against the No. 1 defense, artificial crowd noise began blaring through the upgraded sound system inside the stadium. Moments later, Brown had completed a touchdown pass to Josh Delgado, and a foghorn echoed throughout Autzen, just as it would after a scoring play on game day.
Later in the drill, the offense faced a third down. On cue, Wolfmother’s “Joker & The Thief” blasted through the speakers — again, just as it would on game day. Standing at midfield coaching the drill, UO coach Mario Cristobal looked up toward the press box and waved his arms in the air.
More volume, his gesture said. More.
“It’s never too early,” he said after practice, “to start preparing for that again.”
The Ducks are now one-third of the way through spring practice after Saturday’s workout in the stadium. In another milepost, they’ve now conducted one more workout this spring than they got in a year ago, before the pandemic brought practices to a halt.
In one week, Oregon will be back inside Autzen for another practice, in that case a full scrimmage. In practices between now and then, Cristobal said, the team will drill more specific game situations — 2-minute drill, goal-line plays — so as to be ready next week.
“We’ve still gotta cover situations, to be able to fully scrimmage next Saturday,” Cristobal said. “… We want to keep developing guys, and put guys in situations that demand their very best to make a play. And find out who we can count on to do that.”
Among the quarterbacks, Brown continues to sit atop the practice rotation, with freshmen Jay Butterfield, Robby Ashford and Ty Thompson rotating in with the twos. Brown’s experience was on display Saturday — throughout the practice periods in the red zone, his unit was the most efficient at turning those scoring opportunities into touchdowns.
But, Cristobal said, the young guys are commanding attention as well.
“It’s really heating up,” he said of that battle. “And they’re making plays. At some point in time, there will be separation. But they’re all getting after it.”
Other highlights: After Brown got the No. 1 offense into the end zone on the first rep of the red-zone period, the No. 2 and No. 3 defenses kept the offense off the board. With the twos back up, Thompson did a nice job of extending a play with his feet and completing a pass to Dont’e Thornton down to the 5-yard line. But on the final play of the possession, Jaylin Davies broke up a pass in the end zone. .. In an early team period conducted closer to midfield, Spencer Webb and Josh Delgado both had one-handed catches. Mase Funa batted down a pass at the line, and Daymon David broke up a pass with a big hit. …
In 7-on-7, Brown completed a ball to Thornton, who absorbed a huge hit by JJ Greenfield but held on to the ball. … During an early 11-on-11 drill, DJ James showed off his anticipation by breaking up a pass, and Ashford got off a pass on the run that was completed to Thornton in a really tight window near the sideline.
Other observations: During early positional drills, Bram Walden drew kudos a couple different times from coaches for his execution. … Some players play to the whistle; Kingsley Suamataia plays through the whistle. Coaches talking about playing with “finish,” and Suamataia is always looking to finish his block at the end of a rep. … Two of the biggest collisions of the day were initiated by Jake Shipley and Jackson LaDuke during a team run period. … Cristobal said after practice that his staff is divvying up responsibilities on special teams to assist coordinator Bobby Williams. For instance, he said, linebackers coach Ken Wilson will oversee the kickoff coverage unit.