Notes From Spring Practice: Day 8

The Oregon football team punctuated passing the halfway mark of spring practices by conducting their first full scrimmage of the spring season.

1. Offensively, there were few highlights as it appears it will take more time for not only the line to gel, but for the quarterbacks to establish a tried and true rhythm and connection with their receivers as well. Quarterbacks Nate Costa and Darron Thomas looked as inefficient as they have all spring, with neither player seeming to settle in throughout the duration of the scrimmage. Costa displayed better accuracy than Thomas on the whole, though all too often failed to convert touchdowns in the red zone. Conversely, Thomas was less accurate (throwing in an interception to Terrell Turner) but was able to the lead the offense into the end zone when put in favorable field position.

Despite the offense's inconsistent play, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly seemed somewhat satisfied with the progress of the unit at this point in the spring.

"We gotta do a little bit better job in the red zone converting, but we got a lot of teachable plays (today)," said Kelly.

"We got 122 snaps in today, so we've got a lot of tape to watch...I was kind of impressed. It was pretty clean -- it was the first time we had officials out here -- we didn't have many penalties. Our kids were flying around doing their thing. Now it's just a matter of looking at the tape and making the right corrections."

2. Contributing to some of the quarterbacks' woes today was the surprisingly shaky play of the offensive line. With five starters returning, Kelly was taken aback a bit with the breakdowns in protection, inconsistent run blocking, and botched snaps.

"They're really inconsistent to be honest with you," said Kelly after practice.

"With five guys coming back, we should be a little bit better up front. It took them a while to get going and that's something they've got to rectify. On the first couple of drives there was too much leakage and too many mistakes for a veteran group."

3. With the offense floundering a bit, the defense took advantage. Oregon's speed and athleticism throughout all levels of the defense was on display today as the Ducks swarmed to the football with regularity. Defensive tackle Taylor Hart, defensive end Brandon Hanna, and linebacker Michael Clay all stood out this morning with their effort. Clay was particularly impressive, showing a great nose for the football and finishing tackles.

"Michael Clay really stood out," remarked Kelly,

"He made a great play running to the sideline and closing. He's got great closing and game speed."

4. The biggest fireworks of today's scrimmage came in the return game. Specifically the punt return game where Cliff Harris and Kenjon Barner electrified those in attendance with a couple of long returns.

"Obviously, to have weapons like that back there -- you look at what Kenjon did in the last couple of games for us (last season) -- that just aren't catching the ball, but are making plays when you kick the ball to them, is a huge advantage to us."

Odds and Ends: Running back LaMichael James was limited today in order to prevent unnecessary injury. However, in the action he received, he was stellar in gashing the defense for big yardage...In James' stead, Remene Alston made the most of his opportunities. Alston had one spectacular series in particular that saw him almost single-handedly move the chains catching the ball out of the backfield and running for good yardage. He capped off that drive with a short touchdown run...Wide receiver Justin Hoffman continues to have a very steady spring. He had a number of catches today, including an outstanding grab that required him to make a difficult adjustment on a pass thrown behind him on a crossing route.

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