After quick warm-ups and individual drills, the Oregon Duck football team battled Offense against Defense in the first small scrimmage of the spring. Many new players got their feet wet and were able to make it in on a few plays. The usual play makers were out as well, but the play of a few surprised the many onlookers that made it out for Friday's practice. Nobody took more advantage of the opportunity than Jerome Boyd who made several outstanding plays during the scrimmage. On numerous occasions, Boyd was able to stay home on a play and make great tackles, while showing a lot of pop and strength in doing so. On one play, Remene Alston caught the ball out of the backfield and looked to turn up field by putting a stutter step on Jerome Boyd. Boyd would have none of it though planting Alston flat on his back with a great wrap-up and tackle.
One of the more vocal leaders on the team over the first few sessions of practice has been Kwame Agyeman. He and Patrick Chung seem to have taken a strong leadership role for the defensive unit. Agyeman, who has filled the first unit for the LB's alongside Tuitele and Bacon, made his presence known on a particular play when he connected with Ryan Keeling right as the ball hit his chest, causing the ball to pop loose into the air where Marvin Johnson was right on cue for the ensuing interception. This play fired up the defense, especially Chung who was whooping and hollering on the sidelines in an attempt to get the defense fired up. Jaison Williams, Dennis Dixon, and Jonathan Stewart look to have taken the leadership role for the offensive unit. Of note is the increasing talent of Dexter Manley Jr. On one particular play he was step for step with Dennis Dixon on a scramble down the sidelines. He has made big strides over the off-season.
The offense had its time to shine as well as several plays would have gone for big yardage in a real game situation. Jonathan Stewart took a few hand-offs and bounced to the outside, using his speed to get to the corner for what could have been potential touchdown runs. Jaison Williams was also on the receiving end of a couple deep balls that would have gone for huge yardage.
The coaches were highly involved as well, displaying a lot of enthusiasm and urgency. During the one-on-one drills, Jaison Williams went up against a physical Walter Thurmond. Off the line, Thurmond pushed and shoved Williams, but Williams displayed his size and strength as he shoved Thurmond straight to the ground. Coach Neal was furious and started barking at Thurmond, "You know how big he is! You got to expect things!". Coach Osborne and Coach Gray were also very vocal, pushing their players to give maximum effort both during the play and while getting back in position.
In between the scrimmage sessions, the players were put through blocking drills. The ball carrier had a set of offensive lineman blocking while defenders waited on the other side. The ensuing action was very physical and big hits got the entire team fired up. The enthusiasm and the effort is there for what coaches and players alike hope is a season full of success.
The end of the practice and scrimmage sessions was marked by a Jameel Dowling interception that, under normal circumstances, would have been taken to the house for a defensive touchdown. As a result, the team came together in a huddle and the entire offensive unit was forced to do push-ups.
Near the end of practice, Ryan DePalo went down with an apparent knee injury after being side-swiped on a play that carried itself all the way out to the sideline. Also sitting out for the day were Cole Linehan, Jeremy Gibbs, Geoff Schwartz, Terrell Ward, and Derrick Jones.
Also in attendance were coaches from Hilmar High School in California, Nathan Costa's alma mater. A coach from Westview High School also took in the action.
Spring practice resumes on Monday and is scheduled to start at 4:15.