Improvement on offense came in baby steps Friday morning, as the Ducks took to the practice field for the twelfth time this spring looking for a much better display to close out the fourth week of drills. Quarterbacks Darron Thomas and Bryan Bennett were more judicious with the ball this morning, despite the fact that many of the Oregon receivers still appear to suffer from a case of the drops. One drop in particular by sophomore wide receiver Nick Cole during 7-on-7 drills resulted in an interception by redshirt freshman Erick Dargan, who put an exclamation point on his already tremendous week of practice.
Despite a handful of mistakes from the offense this morning, however, head coach Chip Kelly was pleased overall with how his unit responded following Wednesday's punishing display.
"They were better than they were on Wednesday," Kelly said of the offense. "They did a better job of taking care of the football...those guys have to understand that if we give you the ball when the play starts, just make sure you give it to the official when the play is over."
When asked if Wednesday's myriad of mistakes could be brushed off and chalked up to simply being out of rhythm, Kelly flatly replied "No", saying that it's critical to find out why the mistakes happened and use film as a tool to help prevent similar gaffs happening in the future.
Kelly also stated that the schizophrenic performance from his offense this season may have something to do with the fact that leaders still have yet to emerge on that side of the ball. From the Ducks' "leadership group" last season, Kelly reminded members of the media that no one on offense returns to that group this season. In fact, senior linebacker Josh Kaddu and junior punter Jackson Rice serve as the only returning unit leaders for Oregon heading in to the 2011 season.
"We're very, very young on offense," Kelly admitted. "We lost three offensive linemen (Bo Thran, Jordan Holmes, C.E. Kaiser) that had over 100 starts (combined) in their career, we lost arguably our two best receivers in Drew Davis and Jeff Maehl, we lost a great leader in Nate Costa at the quarterback position...guys like David Paulson, DT (Darron Thomas), and LaMike gotta step up."
Sophomore wide receiver Josh Huff is still sidelined with a knee injury he suffered two weeks ago to the day. While he wasn't dressed in a red non-contact uniform this morning, Huff wasn't in pads either as he wore a brace on his injured knee. His prognosis for the spring game looks dicey, as it seems the training staff is playing it extra safe with his health to close out the spring. Defensive ends Brandon Hanna (foot) and Tony Washington (knee) were both withheld from action today as they nurse injuries coming off of Wednesday's scrimmage. Hanna's foot was in a boot while Washington sported crutches and a large, bulky knee brace Friday morning. No details regarding the severity of their injuries or a possible timetable for their return was given.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
Notes From Spring Practice: Day 12
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