Ducks in shells on Thursday

The Oregon Ducks' practice for Thursday, Aug. 25th was in shells and so the contact was very limited and players didn't leave their feet.

There were typical individual unit drills mixed with lots of special teams' work. The quarterbacks worked on handing off to running back. The practice was slower and toned down the day after the scrimmage as the players worked more on technicalities such as positioning, blocking, handoffs, etc. rather than full-speed play.

At the end of the day however, the offense played the starting defense's back seven players (linebackers and secondary) and there were a few highlights. Demetrius Williams looked like a man among boys on the field today, creating separation on basically every play, catching every ball, and also making the play of the day. Williams put a move on Justin Phinisee and had one step on him as he sprinted down the sideline. Kellen Clemens threw a dart to Williams but the ball was behind him. Williams pulled up and laid out for a diving catch behind Phinisee.

Jairus Byrd played on the second team as a safety. Byrd (5-11, 205) looks similar to Phinisee (5-11, 200) but is even more cut and displays Division I athleticism as a true freshman. Byrd has linebacker-size arms and appears to be the most muscular defensive back on the team. If he keeps growing, Byrd could become a linebacker, but with his size and speed, he could also lay some devastating hits on wide receivers at the safety position.

In drills, Jonathan Stewart is beginning to catch on more and more each practice and is showing the blend of power, balance, and speed that landed him in the U.S. Army All-American game. He hasn't been 100 percent for most of fall camp, but the injury he sustained to his leg last week is recovering and he is almost at full speed. At 5-11, 228, Stewart is rock-solid and shows surprising quickness for his size. When you add to that the fact that Stewart has a vertical jump of over 40 inches (almost unheard of for someone with his height and weight combination), one can understand why the coaches and the entire Duck community are so excited about Stewart.

(John Feeney contributed to this report)

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