1. With each passing practice, it seems as if senior quarterback Nate Costa distances himself (albeit slightly) from redshirt sophomore Darron Thomas. Costa continued his steady, even-keeled play through today, targeting a number receivers for big plays throughout practice. His go-to guys this morning were sophomore running back/TAZR Kenjon Barner and junior college transfer tight end, Brandon Williams. While Kelly has been quick to say that no front-runner has emerged, Costa's consistency at this point can't be overlooked.
Thomas had a solid day himself. Practicing with the first team much of the day, Thomas relied heavily on senior receiver Jeff Maehl. Thomas' touch and accuracy on deep balls continues to impress and his tremendous athletic ability is the one significant advantage he has over Costa. His run to conclude practice during 11-on-11's was Dennis Dixon-esque and was a fitting way to conclude such a high energy day.
2. As was previously mentioned, this morning's practice was as intense and as physical as any practice the Ducks have held this spring. The increased amount of hitting and fiery demeanor of the coaching staff had much to do with that. During one 11-on-11 sequence, senior wide receiver D.J. Davis failed to finish a run after turning a short yardage catch in to a big gain. This displeased Kelly, who was already upset by the lack of effort of a few of his players leading up to that point. Kelly promptly halted practice and instructed the team to do a series of "up-downs", exclaiming, "You guys can either do this, or run to the ball!!"
"We're just going to get their heart rate up," said Kelly after practice,
"That's what I figure. We're either gonna do it by doing up-downs or we can do it playing 11-on-11. They can figure it out one way or the other."
3. The star of Wednesday's practice had to be Maehl. The senior from Paradise, Calif. was electric from the get-go. Whether it was during 2-on-3 drills with the defensive backs, 7-on-7, or 11-on-11, Maehl couldn't be successfully stopped by opposing defensive backs. In the absence of a bona fide short and intermediate receiving threat the likes of departed tight end Ed Dickson, Maehl has appeared to assume the role as the Ducks' all-everything receiving option.
"He's just kind of picked up where he left off (last season)," said Kelly,
"Jeff's an extremely hard worker. He's just trying to hone his craft and just get better and better everyday. You kind of see the quarterbacks get a comfort level with him. I like to say that our quarterbacks are equal opportunity employers and they're going to throw to the guy that's open...Jeff seems to be getting open the most and that's why he's getting the most balls."
4. Sophomore kicker Rob Beard received significant work today and looked very solid. He converted on a number of field goals from varied distances, striking the ball very well and displaying solid accuracy.
"He's looking comfortable", said Kelly,
"I know Oz (tight ends/special teams coach Tom Osborne) has been working with him for a couple of days. The biggest thing with our field goal kickers is that they've kicked but they haven't kicked with a rush...the ball seemed to come off his foot pretty good. He's just got some plant issues, but really I think he's going to be ok. He really kicked the ball pretty good today."
5. Junior Eddie Pleasant has been mentioned a number of times for his seamless transition from outside linebacker to safety this spring, however sophomore defensive end Dion Jordan may be the player that has been most impressive in his new role on the team. Jordan was moved from tight end to defensive end during the offseason and has flourished thus far as a presence off the edge. Jordan's height and athletic ability are his two biggest attributes, as he was seen once again today batting passes down at the line of scrimmage and disrupting the offense's overall flow.
"Dion Jordan has REALLY shown up right now," said Kelly,
"I thought -- and I've said it before -- that he was a natural defensive end. He's a physical player, he was a great special teams player for us last fall, he really uses his hands well, tough, he can run, he's a perfectionist...I knew once we put him with Coach Azz (defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro) that he was going to blossom and I'm really, really excited about his potential there."
Odds and Ends: Sophomore walk-on receiver Justin Hoffman has been very solid this spring and was putting in great work today with the first-team offense. While injuries have contributed to Hoffman being elevated to the ones, he has made the most of his opportunity, flashing good hands and very good speed after the catch...Current third-string quarterback Daryle Hawkins performed well today, exhibiting good open field speed and quickness along with good touch and accuracy on all of his passes. While he's clearly the third option behind Costa and Thomas, Hawkins, with his almost Dennis Dixon-like throwing motion, shows tremendous potential...Running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner had very good days today. James once again was breaking off long runs with regularity, while Barner made an impact in both the rushing and receiving game; taking a short Costa screen pass for a score during one 7-on-7 sequence...Defensive back Terrance Mitchell and defensive tackles Wade Keliikipi and Taylor Hart have all stood out so far this spring. Mitchell was lauded by defensive backs coach John Neal on a number of different occasions today, while Keliikipi and Hart have caught Kelly's eye as emerging factors along the defensive interior...Defensive back Javes Lewis saw limited action today in a few 7-on-7 series. Lewis is still sporting the red non-contact jersey though as he returns from a bothersome Achilles'.
Notes From Spring Practice: Day 5
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