Remember when penalties plagued Oregon football in 2017? Last season, the Ducks successfully improved from the most undisciplined and heavily penalized team in the country to fourth the Pac-12 Conference in penalty yards. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal corrected UO’s bad habits to dramatically improve from the FBS-worst 88.31 penalty yards per game to 47.92 penalty yards in 2018.
What a turn around.
The Ducks must do it again. It’s no secret that next on the fix list is Oregon’s dropped passes problem. The receiving corps dropped 52 passes in the 2018 season. That’s a major hindrance when trying to make the most of Heisman-hopeful quarterback Justin Herbert’s final season at UO. Drives and potential scoring opportunities cannot be halted due to drops if Oregon wants to improve on its 9-4 record.
The good news is the rectification process is already paying dividends.
New wide receivers coach Jevon Bouknight made a strong statement right away; focusing on one of the most old-school and effective drills, the Jugs machine. Graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, tight end Cam McCormick and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo all indicated the countless reps have had a large influence on the receivers.
Johnson, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver with an advantage in size and experience, has seen a change even since he’s arrived a few months ago.
“There has definitely been a change in dropped passes,” Johnson said. “The difference is that now the guys have confidence. (Coach Bouknight) is all about the details, his middle name is details.”
Cristobal stated the passing game inefficiency did not stem from a lack of work ethic, rather a lack of confidence and attention to detail. Bouknight has established precise discipline in aligning perfectly before each play and nailing the details of each route.
Oregon fans noticed the zero dropped passes from the wide receivers in the UO spring game, while teammates are seeing a difference from the inside.
“Receivers are making incredible catches,” offensive lineman Penei Sewell said. “Watching them improve every day has been incredible. Whatever Coach Bouknight is doing, he needs to keep doing, he’s doing something right.”
The addition of Johnson and a strong freshman class has created a unit of competition where everyone is trying to fill the vacancy for Oregon’s next top receiver; Reliability is of the utmost importance.
“(The receivers) did a good job in spring, a really good job in summer, you can tell by the way they are coming into camp,” Arroyo said. “With the added group and added depth, every day is an opportunity to win a job, take a job or keep a job. “
The opportunity for playing time is plentiful but there is no time to waste; A date with Auburn football looms on August 31.