Notes from Fall Camp: Day 1

At last fall camp has arrived. Friday afternoon's two and a half hour practice marked the beginning of the Oregon football team's preparation for the 2009-10 season and their first game September 3 against Boise State. Despite some light sprinkles that dusted the practice fields this afternoon, the action was relatively crisp, as the team appeared eager to kick things off.

1. The most impressive players of the first day of fall camp were a couple freshmen: LaMichael James and Diante Jackson. James, who redshirted last season, was the team's most explosive and consistent offensive threat today. He had a handful of carries this afternoon which he busted for big yards and displayed very good hands in receiving drills, with his overall play today drawing lofty praise from Oregon head coach, Chip Kelly. "LaMichael's in the same category with Willie (Glasper) and Talmadge (Jackson) and some of those guys that you didn't get a chance to see in the spring time," said Kelly, "He didn't do anything today that we haven't seen. He ripped our defense all last fall because he's just such a talented kid. It's exciting to get him back because we really need to find quality depth at the running back spot after losing Jeremiah (Johnson)." Jackson was another player who made an immediate impact during today's initial practice session. In fact, the true freshman from Walnut Creek, California, was the receiver that junior quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, was most impressed with on Friday. "He has some great hands," said Masoli of Jackson, "he needs to work on his footwork a little bit, but his hands look really good." A dynamic athlete, who has a bevy of natural receiving ability, Jackson was seen making great plays in the short, intermediate, and deep passing game. Though it's early, Jackson's overall performance today could mark the beginning of the true freshman's quest for substantial playing time this upcoming season.

2. The Duck defense appeared to play with great energy today in a carry over from their performance in the spring. The pursuit of the defensive line, linebackers, and secondary to the football was encouraging and was one of the biggest things that caught Coach Kelly's attention today. "I thought our defensive kids flew around," said Kelly, "There was a lot of guys on the ball. They were doing a nice job of running to the football. I think the coaches are doing a really good job of getting those guys to run to the ball, so I was impressed with the whole, kind of, consistency of team pursuit on the defensive side of the ball." The most indicative moment of the defense's energetic play this afternoon was during a particular series when junior linebacker Spencer Paysinger's stripped senior tight end Ed Dickson of the football. The Duck defense was quick to pounce on the loose ball as sophomore linebacker, Eddie Pleasant, scooped and made his way down field for what would have been a score.

3. The performance from the quarterbacks and the receivers as whole today was relatively up and down. Early on, the quarterbacks looked fairly sharp hitting receivers in stride during 11-on-11 and demonstrating good accuracy in passing drills. However, as practice wore on, both Masoli and junior Nate Costa played with less consistency. Masoli was air mailing throws a bit more frequently, while Costa was having difficulty zeroing in on receivers in traffic; tossing an interception and having a few passes batted away during 7-on-7's. Likewise, the receivers were similarly erratic. Junior Jamere Holland, senior Rory Cavaille, and redshirt freshman Dion Jordan were the most steady of the Duck receivers today, but players such as junior tight end Malachi Lewis and junior D.J. Davis were inconsistent. Davis, in particular, would follow up nice grabs with questionable drops, as he appears to be somewhat tentative thus far in pushing his surgically repaired knee

4. Redshirt freshman Kenjon Barner was seen working exclusively with the running backs today. Moved from cornerback to running back help with depth issues in the spring, Barner remained there today enabling fellow corners Willie Glasper and Talmadge Jackson to earn some much needed reps after both players missed all of the spring with lower body injuries. "He's a running back, defensive back, swing guy, slash player for the time being," proclaimed Kelly, "We'll continue to use him on both sides of the ball to continue to add depth [to other positions]." Kelly anticipates that Barner will be moved back to the defensive side of the ball later in the week, but is very comfortable deploying him at a number of different positions, saying that Barner can "handle it mentally" and is probably one of the only guys on the team who is capable of providing quality support for so many different positions.

Odds and Ends: In his first practice as a collegian, true freshman punter, Jackson Rice, also displayed some inconsistency. Despite having a tremendous leg, Rice seemed to have difficulty finding a rhythm as he fumbled a few of the long snaps before getting the ball off. Junior wide receivers Jeff Maehl and Tyrece Gaines and senior running back LeGarrette Blount all practiced today, but were limited in their work due to some unidentified nicks and bumps. None of the setbacks appear to be anything serious and Coach Kelly didn't express much concern about any of the players following practice Friday, saying all three were "day-to-day".

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