After a scare earlier in camp, it appears Matthew Harper is healthy again. He was running around with the first team defense and looks to have his speed and cutting ability back. Although the team was dressed in shells, he had a big hit on Cameron Colvin as he turned the ball up field on a catch across the middle.
A good deal of the practice was devoted to areas which don't get a lot of work, but are absolutely necessary in key game situations. One of these areas is practicing the onside kick which the Ducks worked on for a good portion of the practice. It appears JC transfer Tim Taylor has been designated to do onside kicks after the departure of Luke Bellotti. The punt returners also got a chance to get some reps in. Derrick Jones is undoubtedly the most exciting punt returner with his speed but Andiel Brown and Aaron Pflugrad together probably have the most secure hands of the group. In saying that however, I have yet to see Jones put a ball on the turf. Punter Josh Syria was booming punts today with a couple launched around 60-yards into the wind.
Although its been rehashed over and over again, a healthy Jonathan Stewart will be ready to explode this year. He made numerous big time runs again today with the offensive line exploiting the defense with big holes to run through. Snoop at full speed is a nightmare for an opposing secondary. Not unnoticed, Jeremiah Johnson looks as elusive as ever in the open field.
Along the defensive line, a player with as much potential as anybody is Simi Toeaina. Simi has been identified as not having the best work ethic in the past, but recently has scratched that label. Either somebody lit a fire under Toeaina or he is looking to prove something to the coaches after earning reps with the second team defense the last couple of practices. He was hustling to drills and encouraging his teammates this afternoon. Coach Gray spent some time teaching unity with the defensive lineman today as each player would rely on one of his teammates to catch him as he falls backwards. It was a rather humorous drill with Ra'Shon Harris being easily the most scared as the partner of big Simi Toeaina.
By the time he is done here at Oregon, Talmadge Jackson III will be recognized as one of the best cornerbacks to ever play for the Ducks. He has instincts you just can't teach and plays like a veteran already. He has corner speed and the hands of a wide receiver. He had a great leaping pass breakup along the sidelines as he grappled with Drew Davis today followed by a great read and very nearly an interception on the next play as he defended walk-on Terrell Robinson.
Of the wide receivers, Drew Davis and Derrick Jones probably looked the best today. Davis had a few catches, the one standing out was a dump off from Dixon he hauled in and turned on the jets for a 40-yard pick up. Cameron Colvin looked solid as usual today with several catches including a touchdown on a pitch from Brady Leaf.
The quarterback competition was about even today on most accounts. Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf both had their moments connecting on a few deep balls each. Nathan Costa was on point with most of his throws but was picked off by Titus Jackson on an underthrown long ball to Derrick Jones who released behind the defense.
Tomorrow's scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 3:35pm and is CLOSED to the public.
Eight more days until kickoff against Houston.