In tune with this idea, the Oregon Duck coaching staff has welcomed back Coach Osborne with open arms. And for good reason. His work has gone hand in hand with the improvement displayed so far this Spring on not just special teams, but the entire team as a whole. His attitude is infectious and his coaching style, very detail oriented. He emphasizes proper positioning on every play and every block and is quick to jump on a player when their performance doesn't meet his expectations. This Spring has seen an increased number of drills devoted to Special Teams whether the focus is on just punt or kick returns, blocking, or getting a solid rush on the punt. On one play, walk-on corner Brian Butterfield was able to get through the line and block a punt. Coach Osborne wasn't pleased as somebody had missed an assignment. Similarly, he wasn't at all happy about Andre Crenshaw bobbling a punt that would likely have resulted in a turnover. As is the speculation, look for a much more solid Special Teams unit out on the field this year.
For the players sitting out all Spring with various injuries, the Spring has not been just fun and games. Coach Radcliffe has been keeping them on their toes with different drills. Today he had Geoff Schwartz, Simi Toeaina, Max Unger, and Cole Linehan doing running drills that focused on making strong cuts to each direction. Even when Coach Rad is busy helping the rest of the team, the players sitting out are busy doing push-ups or riding the bikes showing a lot of self motivation and desire that was absent on last year's team. Jeremy Gibbs was able to break a sweat during practice today using a red jump rope along the sidelines. Also sitting out today were Jameel Dowling, Jeremiah Johnson, Kwame Agyeman, and Willie Glasper. None of their injuries is reported to be serious although Dowling is expected to miss the Spring Game this Saturday with his sore ankle.
As Spring has wore on, so to has the depth chart. It has evolved and in light of the upcoming Spring Game, the 1's and 2's are now receiving a greater amount of the repetitions in practice. More than any other position, besides running back, the receiver core has shown so much potential for greatness this Spring. Jaison Williams should have a monster season and has the swagger of a veteran out on the field. He always manages to get open and is more shifty in the open field than in years past. Not to say he can't lower his should and run through a defender because we've all seen his power and strength on display numerous times. After all the hype on Cameron Colvin coming out of high school and the disappointment he has been so far, things might just be clicking for him now. Colvin has had one of the best Springs of any player and is playing like he has something to prove. He has all the gifts to be great and it appears he is finally ready to take that next step and is making big plays out on the field.
For much of the Spring, the defense has been head over heels above the offense. It looks like the wheels are starting to turn now for the offense under the direction of offensive guru Chip Kelly. He has his quarterbacks, and more specifically Dennis Dixon, in a comfort zone where they know what to expect and what to do when they see different looks from the defense. The progression of the offense has been fun to see as the big playmakers on offense are out making plays and making it look easy. The quarterbacks were fairly even on performance once again today although Dennis Dixon looks like he should flourish under Kelly's watch. He did throw a pick to Jairus Byrd today however.
The surprise of today's practice was young freshman Drew Davis. After having a very up and down Spring entering school early for Spring ball, Davis showed the coaches and spectators why he was so highly touted out of the high school ranks. On one play, Drew Davis ran a post route and had to go up high for a ball from Brady Leaf against Byrd. Davis was able to use his body effectively and shield Byrd's flailing arms away from the ball as he hauled it in. The ball popped out as he hit the turf but the play would likely have been ruled a catch in a real game situation. Drew Davis was also the recipient of a would be touchdown catch from the arm of the impressive sophomore Nathan Costa. With a lot of pressure from the defender, Davis was once again able to go up high in the air to snag the ball after a quick bobble. He looks to be much more comfortable running routes and is able to concentrate more on getting open and making catches.
The defense has been steady as ever. Although the offense has finally started to click and make some plays against them, the defense is still looking solid, even on the second unit. As has been the case nearly every practice this Spring, Brandon Bair was able to bat down another pass. This time it was Nathan Costa's attempted throw. Walter Thurmond III has had a good Spring and was able to knock away a couple balls from the hands of Jaison Williams. Matthew Harper is much like John Bacon. He doesn't receive a great deal of attention because he is never out of position. He is always around the ball and is rarely beat deep. He is a solid tackler and has great instincts at the safety position. Chung should be an All-American this year and is in mid-season form. Jairus Byrd is much improved this Spring and looks a great deal more comfortable at corner. He and Thurmond should make a good tandem in the secondary. Marvin Johnson continues to impress the coaching staff and it is hard to imagine he won't play a significant amount this year. There just isn't any way you can keep him off the field.
The Oregon Football team has Wednesday off to rest but continues Spring drills on Thursday in anticipation of the upcoming Spring Game this Saturday at 2pm.