Nearing the halfway point in April, the Ducks reached the halfway point in spring drills Thursday, completing their seventh practice which was conducted inside Autzen Stadium for the second time this month. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly addressed a number of hot topics this morning, including the ongoing quarterback competition between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota.
All spring, Kelly has stated that the only thing he's looking for -- out of any position -- is improvement from practice to practice. In assessing the quarterback battle, Kelly says he has seen just that.
"I think they really are starting to get a pretty good grasp of what we're doing and understanding of where to go with the ball," Kelly said Thursday. "If it's 3rd and 6, why are you looking downfield when you can get a first down...I think they're doing that now, where before, they were going through the progressions, but now really understanding of what we're calling based on down and distance."
The continued development of senior linebacker Kiko Alonso was also discussed this morning, as Alonso's name has continually come up throughout the spring in conversations with players and coaches. Alonso, who is coming off his best game as a collegian after winning defensive MVP in the Rose Bowl, has been a star-crossed player during his career Oregon. After suffering through a number of off-field issues in the past, Alonso has emerged as one of a handful of leaders for an Oregon defense coming in to 2012 with high expectations.
"I think it's just his confidence," said Kelly, when asked how Alonso has improved from the end of last year to this spring. "He's rounding back in [to form] and playing the way we all think he's capable of playing. Until guys continue to do that on a consistent basis -- and he played real consistent in the Rose Bowl -- I think that will leap frog him going in to next year."
For Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, Alonso's improvement both on and off the field has been a process; a diet of weekly reminders and conversations angled at making sure Alonso continues along his encouraging recent trajectory.
"I am constantly in his ear on a weekly basis," said Aliotti. "Not on a daily basis cause that could get old. Particularly when we're walking away for the weekend, I try to make sure to [talk] to him.
"There's more to it than wins and losses," Aliotti continued. "We're all competitive, so I'd be lying if I didn't get in to [football] because I was trying to win, but at the end of the day...I got in to it because I like being around the kids, I like coaching football, and I like helping them grow."
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
Notes From Spring Practice: Day 7
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