Wednesday Practice Report

The first half of Wednesday evening practice was dominated by the Duck's defense. During a 10 minute full-contact session that focused primarily on running plays, the defense consistently dropped the running backs behind the line of scrimmage. Frustration seemed to peak when team-leader Andiel Brown was stopped behind the line of scrimmage (again) and spiked the ball in frustration.

(PHOTO) Oregon linebacker John Bacon (10) looks on during Oregon's fall camp. (Photo by Cam Bloch)

The defense completely controlled this part of practice, but the offense flexed its own muscles later in passing drills.

Near the midway point of practice the offense seemed to find its stride. During a 10 minute scrimmage Brady Leaf scrambled out of the pocket threw a perfectly lobbed long ball to Derrick Jones for a 90 yard TD pass that elicited hoots from the offense. Dennis Dixon completed most of his passes in the scrimmage but many of his completions were check downs to receivers running short crossing routes. Dixon continued to throw a lot of balls at his receiver's feet. Nathan Costa had trouble in this session as his 2nd and 3rd string offensive line allowed a lot of defenders into the backfield. Costa scrambled for a few yards and completed a short pass, but was otherwise ineffective. Justin Roper entered the scrimmage for one play and promptly threw an interception.

Costa improved dramatically during 7-on-7 drills after the overwhelming pass rush disappeared. His throws were on target all over the field as the second string defense seemed incapable of stopping him. Costa spread the ball around to all of his receivers, including Aaron Pflugrad who continues to look like a valuable possession receiver. Pflugrad's sure hands reeled in a couple passes during Costa's dissection of the opposition.

Brady Leaf also looked great in 7-on-7's including a perfect long ball to Brian Paysinger that went the distance. Leaf was intercepted once after he appeared to lose concentration and threw the ball directly to an opposing defensive back.

At the end of practice, Dennis Dixon, Derrick Jones and Max Unger were held late for a series of up-downs with Coach Bellotti. Jones answered questions about his level of fitness after spending the summer at home instead of at voluntary workouts by pounding out repetitions so fast Bellotti had to blow the whistle while Unger was still struggling with the "up". Jones appeared undaunted at the end of the drill while both Dixon and Unger were visibly beaten. The defensive backs taunted Jones by calling him "Skinny Minny" earlier in the day, so perhaps Bellotti should consider holding Jones' after practice reps in the weight room.

For the second day in a row, the amount of Ducks patrolling the sidelines without pads seemed to grow. Jonathan Stewart was held out of practice again today after suffering a mild ankle sprain days earlier. However, Stewart did not appear to be wearing a brace and walked without any sign of pain. According to Coach Bellotti, Stewart's injury is minor and he should be practicing again soon.

Starting free safety Matt Harper will miss anywhere from 1-3 weeks after suffering a bone bruise in practice on Tuesday. Harper had taken over the starting position after Ryan DePalo suffered a serious knee injury in spring practice. Bellotti said DePalo is three months ahead of schedule in his recovery, but it is still too early to speculate when he might be able to rejoin the team at full game speed. Replacing Harper's experience will be difficult, but highly-touted redshirt freshman Marvin Johnson appears up to the task. Bellotti stated that the coaches are looking at Jairus Byrd to fill the growing free safety hole in the depth chart.

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