Spring practice for the 2021 season is nearly in the books for the Oregon football team, which held a workout Thursday and will tamp down the tempo for a walk-through Friday prior to Saturday’s Spring Game.
To be determined is whether the Ducks will split into two squads and go head-to-head, or hold more of a scrimmage between the offense and defense. Either way, the program is ready to put on a show for the audience watching on Pac-12 Network.
“We feel good about playing a real quality game,” UO coach Mario Cristobal said.
Player availability will help determine the format Saturday. Cristobal said the Ducks are healthy enough to hold the Spring Game, and certainly plan to be fully healthy come fall. But some players will be unavailable Saturday, as was the case for an open practice two weeks ago.
Missing a guy here and there hasn’t kept the Ducks from putting in work this spring. Cristobal said his optimism about what the Ducks can accomplish in the fall has been validated this month.
“Maybe I kind of knew it,” Cristobal said. “But I wanted to see it shown by the guys, and the way we approach things. It’s a day and age when there’s so much talk; you want to be part of an organization that’s about action.”
If the progress made this month has been a positive, the news this week that fans won’t be able to attend the Spring Game was decidedly less so. Players will miss the experience of performing in front of fans, their families will miss the chance to watch their sons in action, fans will miss the pageantry of the Spring Game, and the program will miss out on a chance to put on a show for recruits.
“There’s no Spring Game on the West Coast like Oregon’s; it’s not even close,” Cristobal said. “We wanted to put on a great show, live, in person. So the news was rough. It was hard to take. But like everything else in the pandemic year, you roll with it. …
“It doesn’t make us happy. It’s not what we want. But maybe it’s a reminder to everybody — let’s take care of business and beat this virus.”
Practice highlights: The final 11-on-11 period was a 2-minute drill, and the defense was dominant. Neither the No. 1 offense nor the No. 2 offense was able to move the chains with a first down. Kayvon Thibodeaux had two sacks for the first-string defense, and Bradyn Swinson was in the backfield a couple of times with the No. 2 defense. … The first team period of the day began much like the open scrimmage two weeks ago began — CJ Verdell taking one to the house. …
Some young receivers showed off their talents in 1-on-1 drills. Kris Hutson made a nice adjustment on the ball to haul in a deep pass, Troy Franklin got vertical to create separation from a DB, and Josh Delgado demonstrated outstanding concentration to haul in a pass with a defender who was really tight in coverage. … In a “block destruction” drill early in practice, Keyon Ware-Hudson had a great rep to beat a double team. Offensively, Jackson Powers-Johnson really held up well on the reps he got in the drill.
Other observations: Cristobal introduced a new drill called “Next Man Up.” For the most part it looked like a typical 11-on-11 drill, but after each rep he’d call out a name or two and those players would run off the field. Their backups had to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and able to execute the next play called. … The young depth guys on the offensive line continue to get looks with the first unit in the latter half of spring camp. At one point Thursday, Logan Sagapolu and Jonathan Denis were the guards with the first team, and later Denis got some reps at right tackle with the No. 1 offense.