Notes From Spring Practice: Day 3

Big plays through the air on offense and stingy play against the run on defense was the cornerstone of a spirited practice that concluded the first week of Spring Camp 2009.

1. Senior running back, LeGarrette Blount, was seen once again today at practice wearing a walking boot on his injured right foot. Unlike Wednesday, Blount didn't have any crutches with him Friday. Oregon head coach, Chip Kelly didn't give a timetable for Blount's return, but it's not completely unreasonable to think that Blount could make his 2009 Spring camp debut when practices resume next week. In other injury news, junior linebacker, Spencer Paysinger, went down with an apparent foot injury. Though, like Blount, Kelly gave no indication one way or the other as to the nature of Paysinger's injury.

2. The defensive line -- and defense in general -- was stout against the run once again on Friday. Players such as senior defensive tackles, Blake Ferras and Simi Toeaina really stood out and provided inspired play that the rest of the defense seemed to feed off of. In fact, Kelly singled out Toeaina, saying, "My favorite play was Simi Toeaina being six yards deep in the backfield and snuffing a run. That was the one that just flashed for me." Kelly also lauded the solid play of defensive ends, Will Tukuafu and Kenny Rowe. Defensive line coach, Jerry Azzinaro, credited the defensive line's solid play thus far in the spring to UO Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jim Radcliffe. "They run hard," said Azzinaro, "that has nothing do with me, that's all Coach Rad getting them to this point, which is pretty amazing." Azzinaro went on to say that he has been thoroughly pleased with the defensive line's work ethic and attention to detail, thus far.

3. Junior quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, had arguably his best practice of the spring this morning, executing big plays downfield to players such as junior wide receiver, Jamere Holland, and sophomore wide receiver Chris Harper. Masoli's downfield passing appears to have markedly improved from last season, as he is providing much more loft on deep passing routes to his receivers, though Masoli admitted he still has much to improve upon. "I think my whole game needs overall work," Masoli confessed, "besides downfield passing, there's always room for improvement [in all areas]." Masoli continued, saying that getting on the same page with players like Holland and Harper is a big part of the success of the downfield passing game. "Chris has made some great catches over the past couple practices," stated Masoli, "and Jamere's just made strides, big strides, in the playbook and just his knowledge of our offense."

4. If the Oregon coaching staff gave out MVP awards at the conclusion of each week of practice, the MVP after week one would undoubtedly be, Walter Thurmond III. Thurmond continued his tremendous play this morning breaking up a handful passes thrown his direction during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Appearing primed and ready to earn First-Team All-Pac-10 honors, Kelly is unabashed in already anointing Thurmond as the team's top player. "He's probably the best kid on the field," said Kelly, "He just sticks out in everything he does right now...Walter is really, really consistent right now."

5. Opposite Thurmond at cornerback, an intriguing battle is brewing between redshirt freshmen, Kenjon Barner and Scott Grady, and sophomore, Anthony Gildon. All week it has appeared that Barner and Grady, in particular, have been dueling for the honor of being Thurmond's sidekick, with projected starting corners, Talmadge Jackson and Willie Glasper being sidelined this spring. "Kenjon's shown some things," said Kelly, "and Scott actually had a pretty good practice today, in drills and things like that...but I think Kenjon is a little bit ahead right now, he's shown some flashes, and that's what happens. When someone goes down, someone else gets an opportunity, and they've taken advantage of the snaps they're getting."

6. Lastly, linebackers Eddie Pleasant and Casey Matthews shined today, as both players were in the middle of the action on a number of different plays, including two turnovers that would have went for scores in game situations. Pleasant's moment came during 11-on-11's when he darted in to the backfield to scoop up an errant pitch by quarterback Justin Roper, while Matthews' highlight moment came during 7-on-7's, when he intercepted a tipped pass that was returned to the endzone.

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