Lightening The Load

Prior to Wednesday's early afternoon practice at Pape Field, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti talked about "lessening the tempo" in order to give the team an opportunity to keep their legs and stay sharp through this initial week of fall camp. The lighter load meant less conditioning and an increased focus on individual drills concentrated on developing good habits and good technique.

Though the tempo had been reduced some, the high level of energy emanating from the players on the field was unaltered. The highlights of the early afternoon session were provided by members of the tremendously deep Oregon secondary. Javes Lewis and Marvin Johnson, in particular, really stood out and provided an encouraging glimpse at the future of the Oregon defensive backfield. Lewis was the day's most impressive player defensively, as he picked off three passes thrown by quarterback Justin Roper, taking two back for scores in 11-on-11 scrimmaging. Lewis, a redshirt freshman from Tustin, CA is a true ball-hawking safety who excels in coverage with his great instincts and anticipation, and has the makings to be a future star in the Duck secondary. Johnson continued his solid play today also, as he was flying around the ball, while accounting for an interception himself during scrimmaging. At the end of practice, both players earned sufficient praise from Oregon Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti.

"We don't make it off of one day," said Aliotti, "but obviously they're two guys who we need to grow up quick. I think they're doing an excellent job. They're great character kids, they can run, they're tough, and just think they're gonna be two really, really good football players. They've got three to four years ahead of them and they're going to be really good."

Along with Lewis and Johnson, linebackers Terrance Pritchett and Spencer Paysinger also performed admirably today. Pritchett particularly had an impressive day as he demonstrated great pursuit and keen awareness lining up at both inside and outside linebacker. He has not only shown a nose for the football, but he plays with good toughness as well. After making a good play on one particular sequence during 11-on-11's, Coach Aliotti enthusiastically congratulated Pritchett by leaping on him and slapping his helmet as he ran back to the huddle. Paysinger also has continued his steady play throughout camp, continuing to demonstrate a knack for making plays around the football and behind the line of scrimmage. Between these two, and fellow linebacker (and late afternoon participant) Eddie Pleasant, the prospective future certainly appears to be optimistic, though Coach Aliotti wasn't as quick to dish out praise.

"They are getting better," claimed Aliotti, "but they have work to do. It's a work in progress."

Notes: Jeff Maehl and Terence Scott were two players singled out by Coach Bellotti at the end of practice today, saying that both have been "impressive" while "making the most of their opportunity." Both had very good practices today, with Maehl exhibiting an outstanding combination of concentration and hands while making a number of leaping grabs of passes from quarterbacks in scrimmages today. Speaking of quarterbacks, the battle between Roper and Nate Costa remains tight, though Roper has maybe lost a little ground to Costa as he has continued to struggle in mixed drills and scrimmages. After showing good poise in the pocket on Monday, Roper has had a string of days where his decision-making ability has been questionable, throwing a handful of picks in today's 11-on-11's. Nick Reed is clearly the most skilled defensive lineman for Oregon, flashing great quickness and a devastating spin move in bull rushing drills against the offensive line. Fenuki Tupou and Max Unger were dominant in these drills as well, with the offensive line appearing to be very strong as expected, creating nice holes and good protection for the quarterbacks and running backs on Wednesday. Lastly, an update on frosh wide receiver, Garrett Embry. He was held out most of Tuesday's late afternoon practice after experiencing some nausea and dehydration. Coach Bellotti said that he would undergo a "battery of tests" to determine whether or not he would be fit to participate today, though Bellotti mentioned that Embry may have an asthmatic condition that contributed to his inability to practice. Final determinations on Embry's health and subsequent status won't be determined until tests are completed.

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