Hitting A Wall

Tuesday's practice at Pape Field was long and exhausting, as the Oregon football team practiced for almost three straight hours in the August heat. Prior to practice, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti said that many players, especially incoming freshmen and JC transfers, were beginning to "hit a wall."

Players such as Darron Thomas, Dion Jordan, and LaMichael James looked particularly exhausted today as they continue to adjust to the physical and mental demands of football at the collegiate level. While all three have looked brilliant at times, Tuesday was a day that seemed to remind everyone who was on hand that these young athletes are still freshman, thus there is substantial progress to be made before they live up to their considerable hype. Thomas was more erratic than normal today, appearing to have difficulty locating and hitting the open receiver. Jordan seemed sluggish, and over the last few days, has dropped more and more passes thrown his way. James has looked similarly sluggish and appeared to be a step slow reading and exploiting open holes provided by the offensive line.

"I've noticed it with every single freshman," said Bellotti with regard to incoming players "hitting the wall", "There comes a point where there's information overload and they're having to think more than they're able to react. Some have already hit it and are past it, some are reaching it right now, and some will reach it next week...it's not that they reach it or that it happens, but it's how they get over it and get past it."

The defense once again appeared as if it had the upper hand, as the secondary and defensive line were particularly stingy today. The big three in the Duck secondary, Walter Thurmond, Jairus Byrd, and Patrick Chung, all appear to be in mid-season form and all played with good energy. Chung looked especially sharp, laying a big hit on wide receiver Ellis Krout near the sideline and exclaiming "That's how we play football!!" He was also seen jawing with wide receiver Jaison Williams after a particular sequence in which Williams beat him in coverage, further revealing that Chung's mouth was in mid-season form as well. The defensive line also impressed, as they were surprisingly stout against the run (even though Jeremiah Johnson was being rested today and Andre Crenshaw was sidelined with an apparent ankle strain). The rotation of Cole Linehan, Ra'Shon Harris, Simi Toeaina, Tonio Celotto, and Blake Ferras rose to the occasion, as they stymied LeGarrette Blount, Remene Alston, and James on a number of plays. Nick Reed and Kenny Rowe also continued to show why they are the team's best pure pass rushers, as they were seen disrupting a handful of plays in the backfield.

Notes: Chris Harper increased his passing load today, throwing the ball sparingly during 7-on-7's and 11-on-11's. Bellotti mentioned that Harper's shoulder has been progressing nicely over the last few days and he anticipates that he will be "full-go" come tomorrow. Harper was also seen taking snaps at running back, though Bellotti once again insisted it was only for "exercise" sake. Arguably the biggest news of the day was Andre Crenshaw going down with an ankle injury. Bellotti said that Crenshaw "strained a tendon in his ankle" and said they'll monitor his status "day-by-day." He was seen hobbling around the field towards the end of practice wearing a protective boot on his left foot. Jeff Maehl and Spencer Paysinger also played sparingly and are day-to-day due to strained hamstrings. Finally, T.J. and NaDarris Ward were both sidelined with minor knee injuries on Tuesday. According to Bellotti, T.J. has a mild knee strain, which medical staff believes is due to "pinching a fat pad in his knee" and a "slight bone bruise," while NaDarris re-aggravated a past injury to his knee that he suffered while at Georgia, which Bellotti stated "is not serious." Like Maehl and Paysinger, both Wards are day-to-day. Tomorrow's practice is set for tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at Pape Field.

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