Defense Continues To Step It Up

The pads came on, the hitting started and the defense showed its might. Familiar names like Jarius Byrd made some plays, but less familiar ones showed play making ability as well.

The familiar unpredictable Oregon weather was present on Friday, and the team practiced inside the Moshofsky Center for the first time this spring. Friday's practice was also the first featuring players in full pads and to feature a scrimmage.

The intensity level picked up with the players being allowed to hit, and the amount of trash talking picked up as well. A majority of which was between offense and defensive players getting after one another a little bit.

Defensively this day was highlighted by the scrimmaging and the tackling drills. There were some big hits and some new faces getting reps in a team setting. The always quotable defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, as always lets players and media know who is excelling vocally. The defensive back tackling drills were no exception.

"That's one hell of a tackle T.J.," Aliotti hollered as he singled out junior safety T.J. Ward.

The object of much of Aliotti's praise the last two practices also showed he could hit. Redshirt freshman linebacker Eddie Pleasant had a punishing hit on Andre Crenshaw as described in yesterday's piece by Andy Nemec.

The defense had a few takeaways in the scrimmage sessions. Jarius Byrd, the junior cornerback from Missouri, had a beautiful interception. While locked up with Drew Davis on the outside, Byrd broke on Davis's post route perfectly and intercepted the Roper pass. Redshirt freshman Brandon Hanna had an interception from his linebacker position, and Kenny Rowe also had fumble recovery while at middle linebacker.

However the most interesting part of the practice was seeing which players played with the first team defense. With John Bacon and Jerome Boyd sitting out with injuries, the starting linebacker trio was Kevin Garrett, Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger. Casey Matthews continues to show a real nose for the ball. The sophomore chased down the quarterback nicely on a scramble, and then the next play Matthews stuffed a Remene Alston dive up the middle.

As far as special teams go there were some notable issues with the long snapping. Incoming long snapping specialist, Zach Taylor from Texas's Blinn Junior College, hasn't transferred yet. That left new guys getting reps at long snapper, and punter Josh Syria was constantly reaching up and jumping up to get to a barrage of high snaps.

The first day of practice in full pads was definitely worth watching, and the size of the crowd at today's practice validated this. It's nice to see a quality effort made from a wide range of players. Returning starters, incoming freshman and underclassmen who didn't play a lot are all giving it their all and that is to be commended.

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