Competition Level Heightened On Day Two

Eugene -- Tuesday's early afternoon practice session at Pape Field was run with a tad more intensity compared to Monday, as coaches and veteran players attempt to establish an efficient and competitive rhythm. The day was highlighted by some particularly good competition that took place between the offense and the defense on 7-on-7 drills.

The defense looked much more aware and quicker to the ball on the second day, with guys such as Walter Thurmond, Spencer Paysinger, and Marvin Johnson standing out as a few players who flew around making a myriad of plays all over the field. Thurmond appears to be coming into his own as a legitimate playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Matched up with Jaison Williams for the majority of the day, Thurmond held his own, displaying great athleticism and ball skills in going up and making a number of deflections on passes thrown his direction. Paysinger also made his presence felt today as he was often in the middle of the action on numerous sequences. During one play in particular, Paysinger dropped back in zone coverage on a designed rollout for quarterback Nathan Costa and made an impressive leaping interception that drew rave response from defensive coaches and teammates alike. Arguably the most impressive player on the defensive side of the ball today was, Marvin Johnson. In unit drills with the defensive backs, as well as in 7-on-7 sessions, Johnson looked like a player who is ready to emerge and demand playing time at the safety position. Demonstrating great hustle and attitude throughout practice, Johnson's day was underscored by a outstanding deflection he made going one-on-one with wide receiver, Rory Cavaille. After losing his balance and allowing Cavaille to flash open, Johnson made a tremendous recovery and break on the ball, batting it away before Cavaille could grasp it.

"I hope you got that on film!" exclaimed Oregon Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti after Johnson's deflection.

The offense had its moments as well. Wide receivers Aaron Pflugrad, Jaison Williams, and Drew Davis all stood out today as players who demonstrated good consistency in drills and running back Remene Alston had a handful of nice runs out of the spread that gashed the defense for big yards. Competition at quarterback remains very good, with Costa and Justin Roper both having moments that convince you they could be a suitable replacement for the departed, Dennis Dixon. Costa remains the most consistent, particularly from an accuracy standpoint, and has seemed to limit the number of mistakes he's made in operating the offense. Roper displayed improved accuracy on short passes (particularly wide receiver screens), while continuing to exhibit encouraging mobility and good arm strength. Unlike yesterday, Roper struggled some in 7-on-7's today and remains slightly behind Costa with regard to positioning on the depth chart. Though, with that said, Roper also appears to be making up ground on Costa, making it increasingly difficult to imagine there being much of a difference in production no matter who wins out this fall.

Said Head Coach Mike Bellotti on the competition between Costa and Roper, "I think they're doing a great job. I'm really, really pleased with their abilities in leading the team, their decision-making, their accuracy throwing the football, it's very close. I'm excited about that competition."

Notes: LeGarrette Blount swapped with Andre Crewshaw today and will be practicing with the newcomers later this afternoon. On the injury front, Jamere Holland missed his second consecutive day of drills as he recovers from minor off-season knee surgery, though he was seen working with an assistant coach on a number of drills and leg strengthening exercises. His status remains day-to-day. T.J. Ward was also held out at the end of practice today due to some cramping in both calves. Coach Bellotti expects him to be fine for tomorrow as fall camp resumes.

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