Notes From Spring Practice: Day 11

It appears that not much has changed one week after Oregon's first intra-squad scrimmage of the spring, as the offense struggled mightily against a dominant defense that continues to get better and better with each passing week.

"I've never seen anything like that and hopefully, here, we won't ever again."

Those the words of offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich after the Oregon offense stumbled and stammered their way through the team's second intra-squad scrimmage of the spring. To adequately describe the play of the offense on Wednesday morning may require the invention of new adjectives; as the defense unofficially forced nine turnovers inside the chilly confines of Autzen Stadium.

"I liked (the offense's) mindset and I thought they played with more intensity than last week, but you're not gonna overcome that many turnovers," head coach Chip Kelly said after Wednesday's scrimmage.

"I'm really, really, really disappointed in our running backs (especially). I don't think any of them showed up today. There were too many drops from that position and too many balls on the ground from that position. We've got two proven players at that position with LaMichael (James) and Kenjon (Barner) that we know we can count on, but after that I don't know. We might have to rely on some of those young guys coming in."

Though it may seem like tough talk, it's difficult to argue with Kelly's assessment of his backfield. While James and Barner received limited touches, they were rendered ineffective against an inspired defense. In their stead for much of the morning, running backs Lache Seastrunk and Daryle Hawkins did next to nothing when it came to moving the ball on the ground. Hawkins particularly struggled, fumbling twice, with one of the fumbles being returned for an 80-yard touchdown by redshirt freshman cornerback, Troy Hill.

"We've hit and been hit," said Helfrich of his ball carriers, "so it's not a situation of, 'Oh my gosh, this guy is scared when it's live' -- I don't think...from the second play on, we had a bunch of drops and a bunch of mishandled balls and I don't know why."

While offense goes back to the drawing board for a second straight week, the defense continues to carry the momentum it has acquire this spring in to Friday's practice as preparation for the week of practice heading in to the spring game begins in earnest.

"I thought our defense played outstanding today," Kelly emphatically stated. "They were fired up, they played with intensity the entire day and there was some great leadership over there. Michael Clay was all over the field, Dion Jordan was all over the field, the secondary played was a really, really good job by our defense today."

Of all the players stepping in to new roles vacated by departing seniors on defense, Clay's performance this spring has been arguably the most outstanding. Sideline to sideline, Clay has been an abject nightmare for ball carriers, coming up with tackle after tackle and rarely, if ever, appearing to be caught out of position. Wednesday was no different, as the San Jose, Calif. native was admittedly pleased with his effort this morning.

"I flew around a lot today," said Clay. "I was out there making a lot more tackles than the last scrimmage. The last scrimmage I had an interception, but today I had a lot more tackles running sideline to sideline making a lot of big hits to fire up the defense."

Friday the Ducks are back inside the Moshofsky Center to close out the fourth week of spring drills. Friday's practice gets underway at 8:35 am and it's open to the general public.


Aside from Hill's fumble recovery for a touchdown, the play of the day may have come from the Oregon special teams during a blocked Alejandro Maldonado field goal attempt. After Maldonado's medium-range field goal try was blocked at the line of scrimmage, the ball was pluck from the air by junior safety John Boyett, who streaked down the sideline accompanied by a convoy of blockers in green jerseys. However, Boyett failed to score, as he was ran down from behind by junior defensive end Dion Jordan -- also wearing a green jersey despite appearing on the field goal protection team -- providing a light moment on the sideline after the play as Boyett laughed and exclaimed, "I thought you were on my team!"...A pair of redshirt freshman came up with interceptions today, as cornerback Terrance Mitchell and safety Erick Dargan each picked fellow redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett. Both Mitchell and Dargan have had breakout springs and seem to be firmly in the mix for considerable playing time this upcoming season...The two injuries of note during today's practice came at the defensive end position where senior Brandon Hanna and redshirt freshman Tony Washington both went down with lower leg injuries. No word was given on the severity of either injury.

Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney

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