Notes From Spring Practice: Day 5

The Ducks begin their second week of spring drills with extra focus Monday on the kicking game.

Monday ushered in the start of the second week of spring practice for the Ducks, as Oregon head coach Chip Kelly stated that his team looked sharp again, while also mentioning that his kickers received extensive work this morning. Senior Rob Beard and junior Alejandro Maldonado will compete once again for the job of starting placekicker after Maldonado served as Oregon's primary kicker on extra points and field goals as Beard was hamstrung with a nagging injury last season.

"We got some chances to kick," said Kelly after practice Monday. "We had great effort protecting those guys and it was the first time we saw those guys kick. They all hit their shots down there in the redzone. You don't get to do it too many times, but it was good to get some live kicking."

Tuesday, the Ducks will scrimmage with officials inside either Autzen Stadium or the Moshofsky Center, with the practice again being closed to the media and general public. For Kelly, the object of the officiated scrimmage is to not only get his players used to "game-like" situations, but to also get a peek at how the officials will implement new rules, such as new rules on kickoffs.

"We wanted to talk to them and see exactly how far -- you got to be five yards from the kicker -- and what has to be five yards," said Kelly. "Is it your foot or your hand or whatever; just to get some of the specifics. With those guys [officials] coming in, it's a learning process for us as coaches on how they're going to interpret."

Though the competition at quarterback between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota is the marquee topic of the spring, the battle for the other receiver positions alongside junior Josh Huff is as hotly contested as any position battle. While returners Rahsaan Vaughn, Keanon Lowe, Eric Dungy, and Daryle Hawkins will figure heavily in to the mix, redshirt freshmen Devon Blackmon, B.J. Kelley, and Tacoi Sumler are expected to push the upperclassmen for snaps in 2012.

"I feel like all the freshmen receivers that were redshirting can make a big impact," said Blackmon after Monday's practice. "Including the ones that didn't redshirt. I think Rahsaan Vaughn is going to have a big year, I think I'm going to have a big year; I think the whole receiving group is going to have a big year cause we feel like we need to step up for the team."

Of course, the conversation with Blackmon ultimately got around to his thoughts on the quarterback race. While the comparisons between Bennett and Mariota may be too difficult for the coaches to comment on, Blackmon said there are certainly differences between the two players, particularly when it comes to the "catchability" of passes.

"When Bryan Bennett throws it, you can tell it's going to be hard because he has that ‘oomph' with it," said Blackmon. "When Marcus throws it, he's more finesse with it and you're more able to catch it with Marcus."

Blackmon admitted however that his rapport with both quarterbacks is similarly strong.

"With Marcus and Bryan, I feel like I have a good connection," said Blackmon. "During the offseason, during the winter workouts, we'd come back after workouts were over and throw in the Mo [Moshofsky Center]. I would throw with them, relentlessly, all the time and it just got our timing down."

Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney

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