Day number three of spring practices for the Oregon football team marked the first day in pads and thus, the first day that actual hitting and tackling could take place. Though there were no eyewitnesses to Friday morning's practice, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly stated he was once again pleased with the effort of his players as the first week of spring drills begins to wind down.
One position of particular intrigue to people both inside and outside the program is running back, where the Ducks return only two scholarship players from last year's team in senior Kenjon Barner and sophomore De'Anthony Thomas. Though Barner is expected to be the bell cow for Oregon in 2012, legitimate questions surround Thomas' ability -- due to his slight build -- to shoulder significant carries whether or not Barner remains healthy.
Despite the fact Thomas has added a bit more muscle to his frame since the end of last season and "continues to get better and better," according Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell, Campbell himself admits he is unsure whether Thomas can provide a steady lift to the running game in Barner's stead.
"I don't have any questions about his [Thomas'] durability right now because we haven't hit him," said Campbell, "but that's yet to be seen. When he starts to take a few hits, he's getting tired, that's when you really see what a guy's stamina is.
"I think it's going to be similar to how we used him last year," Campbell said, as he projected the talented sophomore's role next season. "With a few more carries involved."
If what Campbell speaks is true, the door is open for incoming freshman Byron Marshall to make an instant impact in his first season in Eugene. While Marshall won't arrive until fall camp, Campbell did nothing to hide the fact that the San Jose, California native will be given every opportunity to shine.
"If he [Marshall] is able to pick up the offense and be productive for us, then he'll play," said Campbell.
"Every guy that comes in that's a freshman, we tell them that we want to prepare them to play. If we have to redshirt, that will be a decision that will have to be made between the both of us -- both the players and the coaches."
Offensive line has also been a major focus heading in to the spring as the Ducks work to replace two starters in Mark Asper and Darrion Weems and develop depth behind senior guard Carson York, who is sidelined this spring as he recovers from a torn patellar tendon suffered in January's Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Though he conducted interviews in full pads this morning, York can only observe and provide a leadership role for the younger linemen on the roster.
"If I can't be out there, sort of physically going through the reps and learning that way, then I can start thinking through things in sort of a way through a coach's perspective," said York.
"They say the best way to teach, is to learn," York continued. "If I can offer those (younger) guys some time where they can ask me individual questions about, you know, ‘This is happening. How do I do that?' Or, ‘Look at this and tell me what went wrong here,' hopefully that helps."
York says his pupils have been willing learners and participants, as well, saying that attendance in personal film study sessions have been very encouraging.
"I told the young guys that I'd be in watching film and if anybody wanted to come, they could come," remarked York.
"When I got there, all five of them were sitting there. These young guys are as motivated a group as I've been around."
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
Notes From Spring Practice: Day 3
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