Day 3 Morning Session

Eugene -- Today's morning practice saw a significant amount of time devoted to execution with the special teams unit. It appears Coach Osborne is looking to make the special teams, once again, one of the Duck's team strengths this season.

This morning's practice focused on special teams, which was an area of great disappointment last year. For starters, Mike Bellotti worked a a lot with the Duck's heralded new punter, Josh Syria, on ball placement. It took awhile to realize it, but when Syria punts, it's like he is taking out his nine iron and pitching it right onto the green. Josh has a significant draw on the ball that at first, just appears to be the wind taking it. Looking closer, it is actually him drawing the ball back into the middle of the field from right to left. He has a huge leg and consistently gets around 5 second hang-times on his punts.

Coach Osborne also worked with the special teams unit on attention to detail, coaching positioning and making sure his men were taking on their correct blocking assignments. Longsnapper Eric Steimer was right on the money with all of his snaps today. After a big morning practice the previous day, Derrick Jones came back down to earth as he bobbled and dropped one punt while he was back on return duty.

In regards to special teams, look out for young redshirt freshman Marvin Johnson and Spencer Paysinger, along with sophomore Kevin Garrett. They could all make an impact sooner than later. Marvin Johnson has the look of a bigtime player. He has great football instincts and has playmaker written all over him. Spencer Paysinger is starting to catch on more and more every day, allowing instincts to gradually take over. Kevin Garrett, when focused, shows that he has a lot of potential to be a big-time special teams performer and should see significant playing time this year on the defensive unit.

Terrell Ward showed flashes of brilliance once again today. After an injury and surgery ended his season last year and with rehab also forcing him to miss Spring ball, Ward finally looks to be the player who was once penciled in as a starter. Like his endzone interception against Arizona State last season, Ward showed off his big play mentality with the hit of the day on Cameron Colvin on a quick out today. Ward made a great read and despite just being in shoulder pads, knocked the lid off of Colvin. A dinged up A.J. Tuitele immediately got fired up on the sidelines giving Ward a lot of props after the collision. For his finale, Terrell would later intercept a Brady Leaf pass and return for a touchdown.

As requested, I had a chance to check out the offensive line today and specifically focused on the center position. After the departure of Enoka Lucas to the NFL, the Ducks are looking to Jeff Kendall and possibly even Max Unger to fill the void on the O-Line. Both took snaps under center today and looked solid. Kendall had one low snap but otherwise looks to be ready to step in as a starter. Max Unger looks healthy again and in good shape. He has a mean streak that was revealed yesterday after his squabble with Michael Speed.

Dennis Dixon seems to have much more command this year on his throws. He was throwing darts all day and looks more confident out there stepping into a leadership role. Brady Leaf was also more assertive than in previous years helping newcomer JC transfer Terence Scott on a route running mistake he made early on.

There isn't much Jonathan Stewart needs to improve on, but he appears to be running more confident than ever. He is hitting the holes harder, faster, and really seems to be ready for a huge breakout season. Snoop broke off two big runs today using his speed and jukes to get past defenders. Jeremiah Johnson also impressed when he used his spin move on one play to escape the grasp of Victor Felipe for a solid gain.

Victor Felipe really seems to be one of the leaders on the defensive line this year. He is in better condition than he was in spring ball. Will Tukuafu made some good plays today as well chasing down running back Andiel Brown and recovering a fumble from Brown. Ra'Shon Harris looks bigger and has lost the baby fat he came in with a few years ago. He should be a prime performer on the D-Line along with a healthy Cole Linehan.

If there were any questions about Matthew Harper's toughness, he answered them today as he took on Jonathan Stewart as he was speeding full steam ahead toward the sideline. Harper rode him out of bounds and plays bigger than the expectations his size would likely warrant.

Other Notes: DT Jeremy Gibbs sat out today although he was on hand to observe practice as well as A.J. Tuitele who was on the sidelines watching his teammates.

The afternoon session begins at 4:30pm today with the upcoming combined unit scrimmage set for Friday.


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