Defense Has The Better Day

Eugene -- The Oregon Ducks held practice today inside Autzen Stadium and for a change moved into the Moshofsky Center to conduct a 50-plus play scrimmage that saw the defense dominate the offense. While the offense struggled a bit it is only fair to point out that some of the major weapons were held out or made brief appearances in the mock-up game.

(PHOTO) Brian Paysinger looks to run after making a catch on the sideline. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"I was very proud of our defense," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti about the side that had the best day. "We have talked about the fact that they are not learning a new system that their focus was becoming elite conditioning status, to help us play faster, harder, to dig down."

Bellotti indicated that the Oregon offense is still going through some learning with a new offensive coordinator and the fact that the Ducks are playing without a huddle. The change is designed to up the tempo of the game and that will require the players to be sharper about what the play sequence is going to be. Bellotti indicated that his team would use the no huddle all spring and based on the results, the coaching staff will decide in fall camp if the no-huddle look will be a full-time or part-time element of the Oregon offense.

Still though, the coach was not particularly pleased with what he saw out of the offensive line, even though they were playing without the three remaining starters from last year's squad. Geoff Schwartz and Max Unger are recovering from off-season surgery and Josh Tschrigi sprained an ankle last Thursdday. That gave back ups an opportunity, and right now the headman isn't handing out a lot of praise, even though he concedes the entire offense is going through a lot growing.

"I didn't see the pride or passion I needed to see," commented Bellotti of the line composed entirely of reserve players. "Right now we're not ready to play at that position."

However, when the subject of the defense came up, the coach was in a much better mood, particularly when he analyzed the job of the big men up front. The defensive line is also playing short-handed as Jeremy Gibbs, Dexter Manley, Cole Linehan and Simi Toeaina were all in street clothes. The opportunity to perform was not lost on the other players as Bellotti had special praise for new comer Will Tukuafu and second year man Brandon Bair.

"The defensive line played excellent today," observed Bellotti of the defensive unit. "They don't have a lot of bodies but the controlled the line of scrimmage, they dominated."

Bellotti also thought that the corners especially Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd kept the Oregon passers from being more successful.

It should be noted that neither Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson so much action in the scrimmage. In fact Stewart only had on carry for three yards and was in for just three plays.

"I don't need to see theme," stated Bellotti of his two prized running backs. "Both Jonathan and Jeremiah have proven that they can play at this level. What I really needed to see were the young guys. I thought that Andre (Crenshaw) and Remene (Alston) did some nice things."

Alston showed up and had 29 yards on eight carries and led to the first of two touchdowns. While Crenshaw had less numbers he was hard nosed in his approach. Senior Andiel Brown had 12 carries on 20 yards.

The two touchdowns were on passing plays. The first was a 2-yard pass from Brady Leaf to Cameron Colvin in the back of the end zone and second was on a short field drill when Cody Kempt hit Terrell Robinson for a score.

Dixon was the leading passer with two completions on six attempts for 49 yards. Dixon also ran for 41 yards on four carries. Leaf was 4-for-8 and 21 yards including the touchdown pass. Kempt's only completion was the touchdown of 11 yards. Dixon's biggest play was a 45-yarder to Jaison Williams. Dixon's presence was noteworthy, as it was clear he has made strides in becoming the team's leader. Bellotti thinks Dixon has been working hard to improve his game.

"I think he working a lot on his actual technique and using his feet," observed Bellotti of Dixon, his senior starter. "He rushed a couple of passes today but over all I've been pleased with Dennis' leadership and his decision making. Certainly he is a weapon in what we do and we have to keep him healthy and keep him going."

Special teams still have a fair amount of work as Bellotti is still searching for a punt return specialist and believes the place kickers and punters still need work. In drills prior to the scrimmage a number of punts were dropped and the punts while high were not particularly long. During the scrimmage only Matt Evensen's one field goal was good.

The Ducks will scrimmage again next Friday. The annual spring game will be held on Saturday 28th at Autzen Stadium with a tentative 2:30 p.m. start.

eDuck Top Stories