Oregon football loaded up the buses for a rainy drive from Eugene to Hillsboro Stadium for a half practice, half traditional 11-on-11 scrimmage in front of over 2,000 die-hard Duck fans who spent their Saturday with former Duck Marcus Mariota.
Former Heisman Trophy winner Mariota and former Duck Ifo Ekpre-Olomu supported the team from the sidelines while Oregon fans craned to get their first peek at the nation’s top recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux, among others.
It’s been four months since Oregon beat Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl and some players definitely hit the winter strength and conditioning program (Coach Cristobal calls it the "Fourth Quarter" offseason program) hard. Some of the biggest physical changes I noticed was to the offensive linemen; particularly senior Shane Lemieux and senior Jake Hanson who seem to have toned up and added lower body strength. Junior nose guard Jordon Scott, who started all 13 games last season, definitely has slimmed down. Junior tight end Cam McCormick, won the starting job last August but was injured in the season opener, appears to be 100 percent physically ready and a force to be reckoned with.
Of course it was all eyes on the newcomers, 10 early-enrollee freshmen in Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class.
It was my first look at Thibodeaux, who is not your typical 18 year old. The freshman was on the first-team and is poised to make an impact this season. Freshmen wide receivers Josh Delgado and Mycah Pittman participated in returning punts with Brenden Schooler and Travis Dye. Tight end Patrick Herbert provided a highlight of the day; a touchdown catch in a one-on-one drill.
Not a freshman, but still a highlight was Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, who literally stood out among the wide receivers at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He made some terrific catches from redshirt-freshman quarterback Tyler Shough. Shough, who did not attempt a pass last season, seems to have secured the back-up quarterback position and made some excellent passes.
The longest touchdown of the 11-on-11 scrimmage came via quarterback Justin Herbert to Darrian Felix for 50-yards that brought Oregon fans to their feet.
The Ducks have six more spring practices remaining before they host the spring game at Autzen Stadium on April 20.