Oregon finishes the second week of spring workouts

PORTLAND, ORE. -- The Oregon Ducks traveled to Jesuit High School in Portland on Saturday to hold practice on April 15. Over a thousand fans attended the controlled scrimmage that consisted of conditioning drills capped off by a situational scrimmage that allowed both the offense and defense to run through some basic plays and defensive schemes.

Overall Head Coach Willie Taggart thought the practice was good but felt it brought out some areas that need to be addressed.

"We still have a lot of work to do," admitted Taggart. "There were a lot of mistakes; a lot of penalties that we've got to clean up, but for our first scrimmage I thought it went well, not only our first scrimmage in front of people I thought it went pretty well."

For the most part the offense had the better of things with Royce Freeman breaking off a long run that would have been a touchdown in a game. Quarterback Justin Herbert looked sharp hitting a long pass that resulted in a one-handed catch by senior wide receiver Darren Carrington. Other receivers besides Carrington that caught multiple TD passes from Herbert were  Malik Lovette and tight end Jacob Breeland.

Defensively, while the Duck interior gave up some big plays, there was noticeable improvement in size and strength, though there is obviously a lot of work to do before the season starts next fall. One high light for the defense occurred early when Arrion Springs picked off Herbert's first pass of the day.

The Oregon offensive line looks much bigger and the experience of having the entire line return from last season would indicate that the line of scrimmage was dominated by the offense on Saturday.

Taggart also spoke about the defense, especially the front line line saying that it is bigger and stronger but not yet where he wants it to be, though he added that his defense is improving.

"They're getting better," observed Taggart of his defense. "Once these guys get comfortable with Coach (Jim) Leavitt's system, where they can just play fast, we'll these guys (the defense) get even better."

While this was a situational scrimmage, it was still a practice and an opportunity for players to raise their value in the judgement of the coaches. One area that drew praise from Taggart was the competition at quarterback. While Herbert had a very good day, that should not in anyway diminish what Travis Jonsen or Braxton Burmeister accomplished.

"I tell you what, all three of those guys are doing some really good things," praised Taggart of his quarterback play. "I'm really loving that competition, especially the last two days."

The coach said that one of the quarterbacks will do something and then the other two will try to duplicate what the first did, and that is exactly what the head coach is looking for, "guys who want to compete." Interestingly, Terry Wilson who left the team yesterday was at the practice accompanied by two Portland State players. When ask for his reaction of Wilson leaving the program, Taggard simply said, "we wish him the best of luck."

Another area and performer that Taggart thought had some good moments was running back. Earlier in the week Taggart said that he wants to see Freeman to be more physical in his running style and deliver punishment when the occasion dictates. Did Freeman do that today?

"He delivered a couple of blows," Taggart said of Freeman. "He's running the ball really good, he's getting a great feel for what we're doing on offensive side of the ball. I love the way he's way he's patient and allows his blocks to get out in front of him" 

It's a matter of Freeman "running behind his shoulder pads" in Taggart's estimate. Taggart believes Freeman is a player "most people don't want to hit."

Taggart was also very pleased with the fan support and turnout as the bleacher section was completely filled and there many people standing along the North sideline. 

"It was awesome," said Taggart. "The football gods looked out for us today. They had a beautiful day here in Portland."

The headman said that driving north on I-5 and arriving to see a line outside the high school stadium was "just great to see." and solidify what he felt about the fans that they love Oregon football.

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