Notes From Spring Practice: Day 9

In the most intense practice of the spring, the Ducks played with boundless energy on the practice field this morning at the Moshofsky Center.

1. The perceived edge that senior quarterback Nate Costa had over redshirt sophomore Darron Thomas appears to be dissipating with each passing practice. At this point, the race for who will be the starter come September is too close to call. Today, Thomas seemed to outplay Costa overall. Particularly in 3-on-2 and 7-on-7 drills, Thomas was the more accurate quarterback; targeting and completing throws to senior wideouts Jeff Maehl and D.J. Davis with consistency. The highlight of this morning's practice arguably came during 3-on-2 drills when Thomas demonstrated terrific touch on a deep ball to Maehl that required tremendous concentration by the Paradise, Calif. native as he made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch.

Costa had a solid, if not unspectacular practice, today. He threw a couple of interceptions this morning in 11-on-11's. One to freshman defensive back Terrance Mitchell and one to sophomore linebacker, Michael Clay. Outside of those two gaffs, Costa was steady. In fact, his team ended up defeating Thomas' squad during an overtime simulation at the end of today's practice.

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly liked what he saw overall out of his signal-callers today, but was quick to offer up constructive criticism.

"They made some good plays," said Kelly of his quarterbacks, "but too many turnovers."

"We gotta learn that when we're in the redzone -- Darron took a sack down there (during the overtime simulation) and we also had a turnover -- that we've got to be able to protect (the football)...we've gotta do a better job down there, but before that I thought they were pretty solid."

2. If there is one player that is making a serious case for the unofficial MVP of the spring, it's Jeff Maehl. Day in and day out, Maehl does something that catches your eye. Whether it be an outstanding catch, a nice block, or precision route-running, Maehl has looked dominant in making a case for Preseason All Pac-10 honors.

3. Other than a blocked kick that was almost returned for a score by Michael Clay (who has had a dominant spring campaign in his own right), sophomore kicker Rob Beard has looked rather impressive kicking the ball this spring. As the offense stalled during the overtime period, Beard was rock solid converting on four consecutive tries within 40 yards after his initial kick was blocked.

"Robbie's hitting the ball pretty well right now," remarked Kelly, "I'm really encouraged."

"He's got a really, really strong leg and it's just a matter of him getting a lot of reps because he hasn't taken a lot of reps...he's got as strong a leg as I've seen in a long time."

Odds and Ends: Junior college transfer tight end Brandon Williams had another very good practice today catching virtually everything that was thrown his way. His catch and run while dragging defenders with him downfield rivaled Maehl's over-the-shoulder grab for play of the day...Third-string quarterback Daryle Hawkins may be one of the most elusive players on the Oregon roster. While he was rather inconsistent throwing the ball, running is an entirely different discussion. Hawkins had two runs of 30 or more yards during one 11-on-11 series...The Oregon defense continues to exhibit tremendous speed and pursuit to the football. Today's standouts included (but weren't limited to) linebackers Dewitt Stuckey and Michael Clay, defensive end Tyrell Irvin, and defensive backs Terrance Mitchell and John Boyett.

Official Oregon Injury Report:

Blake Cantu (WR) - shoulder Charlie Carmichael (OL) - knee Nick Cole (WR) - hamstring Anthony Gildon (DB) - ankle Talmadge Jackson (DB) - shoulder Marvin Johnson (DB) - ankle Josh Kaddu (LB) - foot Malachi Lewis (TE) - hamstring Avery Patterson (DB) - toe Carson York (OL) - shoulder

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