Kayvon Thibodeaux

Veteran Ducks impressed by “how smart the freshman class is”

Veteran Ducks impressed by “how smart the freshman class is”

EUGENE- Oregon’s highest-rated recruiting class didn’t just make history, it filled position needs with top talent that could make an impact as early as the 2019 season. Whether it be starting roles, sharing reps, asking the right questions or pushing veterans, the young Ducks have already began their impact on the 2019 Oregon football team.

Now that the rest of the freshmen class is in Eugene, joining the 11 early enrollees, one big question in fall camp is: Will the freshmen transition smoothly and live up to the high expectations?

“I’m very impressed by how smart this freshmen class is as a whole in the game of football,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham. “Their football IQ is very, very high.”

Realistically, there will be a few freshmen that emerge, while the others take a little more time to adjust to the college pace. Position openings at defensive end, linebacker and wide receiver bode well for starting role battles for Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mase Funa, Josh Delgado and Mycah Pittman.

[READ: Shining personalities, injury updates and first Oregon football fall camp impressions]

When meeting with the media after UO’s first practice, second-year head coach Mario Cristobal literally brought out a paper list of freshmen capable of making an instant impact this season. The list included Thibodeaux, Funa, Delgado and Pittman. Cristobal also noted that running back Sean Dollars broke loose in practice and tight end Patrick Herbert, who has seen offseason weight room gains of about 25 pounds, will be in the mix to get on the field with brother and quarterback Justin Herbert this season.

Which young Ducks are impressing veterans?

Ahead of last season, Herbert picked then-redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell as a player he expected to surprise fans. Herbert was very, very, very correct. Verdell had 1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns and 315 receiving yards and two scores last season.

Upperclassmen have largely been excited and surprised, here are some of the best answers, including one prediction that Mykael Wright could be a freshman All-American.

Thibodeaux: No shock here. ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class enrolled early, quickly adjusted to college pace and has displayed an array of pass-rushing moves that indicate he will be a high-impact player right away. The true freshman’s goal is to have 10 sacks every season. Justin Hollins led UO last season with 6.5 sacks.

Verdell, Graham and junior defensive tackle Jordon Scott spoke highly of the 6-foot-5, 240 pound defensive end.

“I see him making a huge impact on the field this season,” said Verdell.

Pittman: The wide receiver is possibly the most talked about new option for Herbert after a strong spring where made his presence felt. As one of the highest rated receivers to sign with Oregon, he is already impacting the Duck offense, earning significant reps during spring practice, moving up the depth chart and pushing veterans. 

“Pittman has been surprising me,” tight end Cam McCormick said. “Always goes beyond, he always does extra.”

Junior safety Jevon Holland added, “Pittman has got strong hands, makes the catches that he needs and he’s really trustworthy when it comes to catching the ball.”

Dollars: Dollars has all the tools to have a stand out freshman season and develop into a starting running back before his time is up at Oregon. The Ducks have enviable veteran running back experience with Verdell, Travis Dye, Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Darrian Felix. It’s a good problem for UO offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo and running back coach Jim Mastro.

Should Dollars quickly learn the playbook and adjust to college speed, he could be an elite addition to the backfield

“Sean Dollars has been picking up the plays really well, asking a lot of questions, I like that about him,” said Verdell. “He’s very intuitive.”                                                                       

Mykael Wright: Wright shined in the spring game with five tackles, three pass breakups and an interception.  He is No. 3 behind Oregon’s starting corner backs Graham and Deommodore Lenoir.

“Mykael Wright, he’s been pushing me for reps,” said Graham. “And I want him to do that, I want him to get reps because at the end of the day I want him to get in games, I think he could be a freshman All-American.”

Delgado: The wide receiver added 15 pounds during Oregon’s rigorous offseason weight lifting program. Plus, Delgago excelled in the spring, pushing to get on the field sooner rather than later.

Graham praised that Delgado is “probably two years smarter than his entire class” while graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson said Delgado regularly reaches out to get extra practice in with the senior.

“Josh Delgado works extremely hard with a professional attitude,” Johnson said.

Herbert, (Patrick): Herbert’s listed weight increased 25 pounds from 220 to 245, benefitting from a strong offseason. The lone in-state prospect in 2019, four-star Herbert’s strength is catching the ball in traffic.

“You could be hearing Herbert to Herbert this season,” said Johnson. “He will be good for this team, not just because he’s Justin’s brother but because he is his own separate player.”

GeMon Eaford:  The 6-foot-1, 240 pound linebacker out of Florida will push for reps this season. He earned a nod from Verdell as a player who might surprise fans this season.

NEXT, A SURPRISE FROM OREGON MEDIA DAY: Verdell lived in Japan for three years. No, he cannot speak Japanese, he laughed as he said “That’s the sad part, I forgot all of it.”

Shining personalities, injury updates and first Oregon football fall camp impressions

Shining personalities, injury updates and first Oregon football fall camp impressions

EUGENE- After the first practice of Oregon’s 2019 fall football camp, coach Mario Cristobal oozed preparation and organization. When meeting with the media, the second-year head coach literally brought out a paper list of freshmen capable of making an instant impact this season.

Tremendous organization and infusion of new talent are just two parts of the equation that is adding up to an optimistic outlook for the 2019 season. The Ducks are trying to make the most of Heisman hopeful quarterback Justin Herbert’s final year. UO returns a combined 17 positional starters, a veteran offensive line, running back weapons CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, deep competition at receiver and a defense led by projected first round NFL draft pick linebacker Troy Dye.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It should come as no surprise that the first thing Cristobal stated he is looking for during fall camp is “physicality.”

He liked what he saw. The Ducks practiced so aggressively in helmets, without pads, that the coaching staff had to tell some players to tone it down a little.

"Certainly they’ve been eager for this day to come. The day has arrived, and they got after it,” Cristobal said.

UO is facing an especially important fall camp due to a pivotal and polarizing week one showdown against Auburn. The desire is to have competition at every position and build depth. Oregon is putting major emphasis on improving explosiveness at the lines of scrimmage and the run game to lead the Pac-12 in rushing yards.

AUBURN 

Typically, fall camp is not a time to focus on one specific team. However, with the lofty implications of Oregon’s week one SEC battle, Cristobal addressed if that philosophy will shift.

About 10 days before Oregon’s polarizing matchup against Auburn on August 31, the Ducks will shift focus entirely to game planning for the Tigers.

"We all know it’s an incredible opportunity,” Cristobal said. “But we also know you can’t skip step one, two and three, which is camp. After that we’ll get dialed in on our first opponent."

BEST PERSONALITY

Two of my favorite personalities at Oregon media day were surprises: freshmen Patrick Herbert and Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Tight end Herbert physically resembles his older brother Justin in a double-take type way. Patrick plays with his long locks similarly to how his brother did when he garned the “Hairbert” nickname as a junior. Patrick is gifted with the same calm presence that Justin evokes and answers questions without hesitation in a precise manner- he doesn’t waste words. He made eye contact and politely thanked me for the interview.

He is already making his own name as a Duck and getting in the mix to contribute this season. Herbert’s listed weight increased 25 pounds from 220 to 245. The lone in-state prospect in 2019, four-star Herbert’s strength is catching the ball in traffic.
“Well, he (Justin) is lucky he's a senior because he'd be in the shadow (of Patrick)," Cristobal said.

Patrick has humble confidence and lights up when he talks about his family and Justin. When the brothers were a senior and freshman at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Patrick loved catching passes from Justin and called it a “highlight of his high school and football career." He continued to say it’d “mean the world” to connect in Autzen Stadium.  

Thibodeaux also opened up on emotions he expects to feel as he runs out to his first college football game in and Oregon Duck uniform. ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class may shed a tear or two.

The 6-foot-5, 240 pound elite pass rusher is sporting a beard because he made a bet with a friend to see who could grow it out a longer.

The true freshman’s goal is to have 10 sacks every season. Justin Hollins led UO last season with 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is poised to lead Oregon this season: he enrolled early, quickly adjusted to college pace and has displayed an array of pass-rushing moves that indicate he will be a high-impact player right away.

While 10 sacks is his personal goal, Thibodeaux says he would trade it for one sack and nine wins.

INJURY UPDATES

Oregon opened fall camp at almost complete health and with virtually full participation. The short injury list is an ideal situation for Oregon.

The only player out was walk-on receiver Justin Collins.

Junior tight end Cam McCormick (minor ankle injury) and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi (rehabbing ACL) were limited but plan to be back to action in a few days. Cornerback Haki Woods Jr., who was given a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, has recovered from an ankle sprain in the summer.

NEXT

Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s offense, registering 52 dropped passes last season. Stay tuned for an update on how Oregon has improved their drop problem and which young Ducks are impressing veterans.

Oregon football predictions: Ducks beat Auburn, Dye smashes record, McCormick back with vengeance

Oregon football predictions: Ducks beat Auburn, Dye smashes record, McCormick back with vengeance

Optimism is high for Oregon football’s 2019 season. 

The anticipation is palpable. The Ducks are trying to make the most of Heisman hopeful quarterback Justin Herbert’s senior year and Cristobal’s second season at the top. UO returns a combined 17 positional starters; a veteran offensive line, running back weapons CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, an influx of new talent at receiver, projected first round draft pick linebacker Troy Dye and a few extraordinary freshman who could make instant impacts.

Before the action begins, here are six predictions for Oregon's season. Let me know if you agree or disagree on Twitter

1. Underdog Ducks will beat Auburn

Oregon football grasps the chance to upset Auburn in prime time and become the Pac-12’s best chance for a spot in the playoff. It’s hard to count out a determined Gus Malzahn, who has been featured on every ‘hot seat’ list in the country, and a resilient Auburn team, but the Ducks have the star power, size and experience to beat the Tigers.

2. Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dye will undoubtedly be the leader of Oregon’s 2019 defense and he’s already etched his name in UO history books: leading the team in tackles for three straight seasons, only the third Duck to do so since 1970.

The “freak athlete” as NFL scouting reports often refer to Dye, finished the 2018 season with 115 total tackles totaling 313 in his collegiate career. He needs 121 tackles, six more than he had last season, to set the record.

3. Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert; will set new record for career pass completions

Herbert’s teammates gush that he has never been better. His leadership skills have grown immensely, altering the perception of his shy personality. He is receiving instruction from legends at his position. He is utilizing the summer break to better connect with his receivers. Long story short, Herbert is putting it all together for an epic senior season that I predict will be record shattering.

The senior will break Oregon’s record for career pass completions, set by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with 779 completions.

4. Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

The Ducks have six options at tight end but I predict you will be hearing Cam McCormick’s name ringing through Autzen Stadium a lot this season.

McCormick won the starting spot last year but suffered a season-ending left leg injury in the first game of the season. The Bend, Oregon. native is back in action and poised to have a breakout junior season. He returned for Oregon’s spring football and practiced with the first team. 

Expect the 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass catcher to be a big (literally) weapon for Herbert. As the Ducks’ largest tight end, McCormick has NFL size and tools to make an impact this season.

5. "Dangerous" running back Sean Dollars to have a money freshman season

Hype surrounds the star-powered 2019 class looking to make an instant impact, including Sean Dollars, who has all the tools to have a stand out freshman season and develop into a starting running back before his time is up at Oregon. He’s also caught the eye of former Duck running back star and Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James who believes Dollars is already “college ready.” Should Dollars enter Oregon’s fall camp in peak physical and mental shape, he could be an elite addition to the backfield. 

6. True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

Cristobal named Kayvon Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. Undoubtedly, ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class is competing for a starting job and I predict the defensive end will lead UO in sacks this season. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Do you have any predictions of your own?

Dropped passes are hot lava? What I'm watching and listening for at Oregon media day

Dropped passes are hot lava? What I'm watching and listening for at Oregon media day

Oregon football is facing an especially important fall camp with a pivotal and polarizing week one showdown against Auburn. To kick it off, the Ducks will be available for media interviews on Friday.

There are bound to be some great quotes and opinions on hot topics surrounding the 2019 season. Here is what I am watching and listening for:

Auburn attitude

Typically, fall camp is an opportunity for coaches to evaluate the growth of players over the summer, while addressing the depth chart and implementing schemes. Usually, fall camp is not a time to focus on one specific team. With the lofty implications of Oregon’s week one marquee SEC matchup, will that philosophy shift?

The Ducks grasp the chance to upset Auburn in prime time and become the Pac-12’s best chance for a spot in the playoff. A win sends the underdog Ducks and the Pac-12 Conference into national relevancy, and a loss initiates an uphill fight; no team has ever rebounded from a week one loss to make the final field of four.

It’s a similar situation that Washington was in last season. The Huskies lost to Auburn in a similar kind of neutral site, early-season matchup and every game afterwards became a “must win.”

Will Oregon coach Mario Cristobal begin Auburn game plan implementation earlier than normal? Or will he stick to the “focus on us first” mentality?

Freshmen phenoms

Ahead of last season, Herbert picked then-redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell as a player he expected to surprise fans. Herbert was very, very, very correct; Verdell had 1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns and 315 receiving yards and two scores last season.

Which young Ducks are impressing veterans this season?

The highest-ever rated recruiting class in program history is officially in Eugene with several players capable of making an instant impact. Defense end Kayvon Thibodeaux, cornerback Mykael Wright, linebacker Mase Funa, wide receiver Josh Delgado and wide receiver Mycah Pittman have already earned the praise of Cristobal and teammates.

Don’t forget about running back Sean Dollars, running back Jayvaun Wilson, tight end Patrick Herbert, linebacker Ge’Mon Eaford and kicker Camden Lewis. Each have the potential for production this season. 

Likely, there will be a few freshmen that emerge, while the others take a little more time to adjust to the college pace. Position openings at defensive end, linebacker and wide receiver bode well for starting role battles for Thibodeaux, Funa, Delgado and Pittman.

[READ: True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks]

Will Thibodeaux live up to his No. 1 recruit in the nation hype? Will he beat out senior Gus Cumberlander, who has showed vast pass-rush improvement, and start at defensive end? Will Funa challenge veterans in both the STUD position and at inside linebacker and find himself into a starting role? Pittman and Delgago excelled in the spring, will they get on the field sooner rather than later?

Dropped passes are hot lava

Ring the alarm bells, warm up the searchlight, the hunt is on for Oregon’s next leading receiver. Single-season receiving yardage leader Dillon Mitchell is with the Minnesota Vikings, which opens a big void for a reliable receiver.

Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s offense. According to Oregon, the coaching staff's analysis registered 52 dropped passes last season. Ouch.

[WATCH: Juwan Johnson and Justin Herbert's intensifying connection]

How can Oregon best take advantage of quarterback Justin Herbert’s final season? Cristobal called it “no secret” that drops must improve. New wide receivers coach Jevon Bouknight stepped in and made a strong instant impression on his position group. His focus was on correcting their mental approach and technique. Will there be a notable difference in confidence of veterans like senior Brenden Schooler, who had his fair share of drops last season?

What about a special teams plan?

Leading punt returner Ugochukwu Amadi is gone to the Seattle Seahawks. There is a vacancy for kickoff returner with Tony Brooks-James’ departure. Who on the roster is best fitted for return duties?

Cristobal has praised Dollars for his special teams abilities, so watch for the freshman to get a shot. Jevon Holland, Jaylon Redd and Travis Dye are other options.

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal named Kayvon Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. Undoubtedly, ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class is competing for a starting job and I predict the defensive end will lead UO in sacks this season.

Thibodeaux enters into an Oregon pass rushing unit that lost two leaders in Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks to graduation. Hollins led UO last season with 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is poised for seven or more sack this season; he enrolled early, quickly adjusted to college pace and displayed an array of pass-rushing moves that indicate he will be a high-impact player right away.

By the way, the true freshman is doing a push-up challenge on his Instagram account called “see 50, do 50” where he does 50 pushups every hour and encourages his followers to join in. He also joined Oregon's 500-pound squat club during offseason workouts

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Thibodeaux’s production will be critically important for the Duck defense. Gus Cumberlander is Oregon’s top returning pass rusher who recorded four sacks in 2018. Whether he’s a first-stringer or a rotational player, Thibodeaux has the opportunity to make a huge impact that could lead to All-Pac-12 honors by the end of the season.

During the UO spring game, Thibodeaux generated consistent pressure and recorded a sack. He would have had at least one more if the scrimmage was completely game-like without the quarterbacks in red no-contact jerseys.

Thibodeaux’s talent plus football IQ equals a star in the making. There are just 46 days until Oregon football kicks off the 2019 season against Auburn on August 31, 2019. In order for the Ducks to contend in the Pac-12 north, Thibodeaux will need to live up to expectations and shoulder the weight as a UO’s leading pass-rusher.

MORE PREDICTIONS

Underdog Ducks will beat Auburn

Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert; will set new record for career pass completions

Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

"Dangerous" running back Sean Dollars to have a money freshman season

Oregon football offseason updates: 6 takeaways from Mario Cristobal

Oregon football offseason updates: 6 takeaways from Mario Cristobal

College football is creeping in… Ready for some Duck football updates? Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal met with the media prior to the Portland Golf Classic at Langdon Farms Golf Club on Monday. Here are the biggest takeaways:

1. FOOTBALL STAFF IS NOT ON PAR

Cristobal is admittedly bad at golf, has never played 18 holes and spends a lot of time recruiting while he is on the greens. In fact, he said the entire UO football staff is not good on the golf course. He thinks it is a good sign that his staff is much better at their jobs than golfing.

2. 500 POUND SQUAT CLUB IS GROWING

The Ducks are getting after it in the weight room as apart of their offseason strength and conditioning program. Junior defensive lineman Jordon Scott posted a video squatting 605 pounds and freshman defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux just joined the 500-pound squat club.

Last year, Oregon had 29 players who could squad 400 or more pounds. That number has almost doubled to 56 players in the “400 club”, according to Cristobal. 15 Ducks can squat 500 pounds compared to three a year ago. He gave a special shout out to the seniors who have been leading the way in the weight room.

3. CRISTOBAL IS PROUD OF THE DUCKS IN THE COMMUNITY

Oregon football has been ever present in the community this offseason. The Ducks had almost 60 players volunteer for the Oregon football women’s clinic and quarterback Justin Herbert spends a lot of his time in the OHeroes program.

“There is no head faking, there is no putting on a show,” Cristobal said. “I’m proud of the fact that they chose to be apart of the community and chose to give back because if it’s forced, it’s not the same. Our players are made of the right stuff on the inside and that’s what we are most proud of.”

4. THE REST OF UO’S BEST EVER RECRUITING CLASS ON CAMPUS IN TWO WEEKS

It was all eyes on Oregon’s 11 early enrollees during spring football practices. Now, the rest of Oregon’s highest-rated class is headed to Eugene and will arrive on campus on June 22-23.

The remaining four-star recruits that will officially join the team in two weeks are: linebacker Masu Funa, wide receiver Lance Wilhoite, offensive lineman Jonah Tauanu'u, running back Sean Dollars and defensive tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson.

“They have about four-and-a-half weeks to prepare for their first collegiate season,” said Cristobal. “They have about four-and-a-half weeks to do a great job in the classroom, learn the systems, get in the best shape they can, attack every phase of the process we have set for them before a small break before we start fall camp.”

5. NATE COSTA JOINING THE STAFF IS A BIG DEAL

Cristobal praised former Oregon quarterback Nate Costa, who played for Oregon from 2006-10. Cristobal hired Costa as a Senior Offensive Analyst in March but it’s not the first time the two have met.

“I met Nate three years ago,” Cristobal said. “While I was in Tuscaloosa, he came in for an interview… Super bright guy with an extremely high football I.Q. He has been in a couple different systems and has done some coaching as well at IMG. He’s a very well respected guy and a guy that will, without question, help us offensively.”

6. OREGON IS HIGHLY MONITORING TRANSFER PORTAL

Since the NCAA has altered the transfer rules, granting a larger number of waivers for immediate eligibility, many programs have adjusted their strategies. The Ducks aren't making any drastic changes but always on high alert when it comes to the transfer portal.

"If you have to change because of the transfer portal, you're probably not doing it right to begin with. I say that very openly and honestly," Cristobal said. "If you have to change what you are because of an adjustment, I think that’s a problem. We don’t change, we are what we are, 24/7, 365. We do things the right way, we work extremely hard, we’re demanding but not demeaning. We take care of our players but we also make sure to challenge them and push them to reach their highest potential. “

Oregon football; Defensive Back University?

Oregon football; Defensive Back University?

Oregon football, also known as; Nike University, Running Back University and Defensive Back University?

The Ducks’ highest-rated recruiting class in program history received another major addition; the highest-rated defensive back commitment in program history, Chris Steele.

Steele, the nation’s No. 3 cornerback and No. 19 overall prospect in the class of 2019, transferred from Florida after spring football.

According to the Gainesville Sun, in late January, Steele asked the Florida coaching staff for new roommate assignment, away from quarterback Jalon Jones, expressing concerns about Jones' behavior. In April, Jones was accused of sexual battery by two Florida students. The Florida Staff declined to act and postponed his request until summer and Steele decided to enter the transfer portal.

The 6-foot, 175-pound athlete, out of St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, California) returned to the west coast via Oregon.

"Coach Donte. Our relationship is known." Steele told 247sports of Oregon coach Donte Williams. "Me and that dude, he’s like a big brother to me. The opportunity to play for somebody who is going to care about me off the field but at the same time is going to develop me better than other people, it’s a win-win situation." 

Had Steele signed with Oregon before National Signing Day, the Ducks’ 2019 class would have been ranked at No. 5 overall, their first top five finish ever. Oregon finished No. 7 without the signing of Steele. 

A few notes on what adding another five-star piece means…

Can Steele play next season?

Steele enrolled at Florida, so it's unclear if he will be eligible for the 2019 season, but he can apply for a waiver to play immediately.

Oregon’s 2019 secondary is locked and loaded with talent.

Juniors Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir have depth and talent behind them. If Steele is granted a waiver to play immediately, Oregon will have two star freshmen cornerbacks in Steele and Mykael Wright, plus redshirt freshman safety Steve Stephens. The pair of safeties, Nick Pickett and Jevon Holland, will also return. 

Lenoir often tweets "TMC," which stands for "The Marathon Continues." It's a reference to the sixth official mixtape by American rapper Nipsey Hussle, but it means something more to the Ducks secondary. "This journey has only begun to become the best secondary," said Lenoir. "It's a marathon not a race. We will prove a lot this year."

The #CaliFlock is real.

The Ducks scored three of the top six ranked players in the state of California in the 2019 class. All three are defensive players; including Steele (No. 5), Wright (No. 4) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 1). A total of seven of California’s top 21 2019 prospects are at Oregon.

The veterans are hyped.

When Steele transferred from Florida, a few Gator wide receivers tweeted pictures of themselves making catches over Steele. When Steele joined the Ducks, he was met with a different feeling on Twitter from Oregon football.

The ripple effect.

Now the defensive backs are rolling in. Four-star safety Jared Greenfield (class of 2020) has included Oregon in his final five. The coveted 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back out of Narbonne High School (Harbor City, California), is expected to having Oregon as his heavy favorite.

Oregon spring game: Be the fan in the know

Oregon spring game: Be the fan in the know

Do you want to be the Duck football fan in the know for the Oregon spring football game? I've got you covered. 

Saturday will be a great opportunity to see ten early enrollees from Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class, plus fresh face Penn State graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson! Watch the video about for what you should be watching for. 

The roster will be split into two teams instead of the offense vs. defense format from a year ago. Rosters for the “Mighty Oregon” squad and the “Fighting Ducks” team will be unveiled soon. 

More details:

  • Admission is free.
  • Fans are asked to bring three non-perishable food items for donation to Food for Lane County. 
  • Oregon legends and Pro Football Hall of Fame members Gary Zimmerman (OL, 1980-83) and Dan Fouts (QB, 1970-72) will represent the two teams during the coin toss.
  • Fans are encouraged to arrive early and carpool as much as possible. The Autzen Stadium East parking lot will open to the public at 11:30 a.m. at a cost of $5 per vehicle.
  • Starting at 1 p.m. there will be an Easter egg hunt for children on the HDC practice fields. Fans should enter through the north gate that is closest to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
  • The men’s basketball program will be signing autographs inside Autzen Stadium on the concourse starting at 1 p.m. Commemorative autograph cards will be provided.
  • Flyover by F-15s from Oregon National Guard during the national anthem.

Takeaways from Oregon football Hillsboro scrimmage: changed physiques, freshmen highlights and Duck “celebrities”

Takeaways from Oregon football Hillsboro scrimmage: changed physiques, freshmen highlights and Duck “celebrities”

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.

Oregon Spring Football PT. 2: Ducks to improve dropped passes and defense

Oregon Spring Football PT. 2: Ducks to improve dropped passes and defense

The day after I wrote how I could feel spring in the air, the snow began to fall in Portland. Regardless of the weather, Oregon spring football practices are about to begin! If you haven’t yet read the latest Duck injury updates, coaching changes and true freshmen who enrolled early, better catch up! Caution, the list of early enrollees from Oregon's historic 2019 recruiting class may make you count down the days until opening kickoff. 

The first of Oregon’s 15 spring practices will begin this Saturday. Two main focuses of spring will be; Cutting down dropped passes and shifting into new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ defense. Here is an update on how Oregon plans to do that.

How Cristobal plans on fixing UO’s dropped passes problem

Oregon’s 2018 pass catchers had an inconsistent season as a group, aside from Dillon Mitchell. Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s offense, something new wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight will be tasked with fixing.

How can the Ducks get the most out of quarterback Justin Herbert in his final season at UO?

Oregon coach Cristobal called it “no secret” that drops must improve. 

Cristobal intends to add up the number of drops and the yards lost in 2018 to provide a “teaching moment.” Then, he’ll calculate the significance of those drops and yards in terms of third downs and moving the chains.

Sounds like a fun meeting, huh? 

[READ: It’s Juwan Johnson’s opportunity to grasp or waste]

“It’s pretty significant," Cristobal said. "It’s no secret, it’s an issue. But it’s not an issue from a determination or work ethic standpoint. We’ve got to technically teach our guys how to be efficient and precise in catching the football, putting it away and doing something with it.”

Cristobal states the problem does not stem from a lack of work ethic but highlighted areas where the position group needs to improve most; discipline in aligning perfectly before each play and nailing the details of each route.

Passing game efficiency is the goal and according to Cristobal, Bouknight has already "made a strong statement" since joining the staff two weeks ago. 

"You don’t point a finger at anybody whether it be the tight end, receiver or quarterback. You coach it better. You teach it better. You get in there and you work harder."

 

How the defense will change under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos

Over a year later, the Ducks took something positive from the Las Vegas Bowl loss… Boise State’s defensive coordinator, Andy Avalos.

“When coach Cristobal reached out to me about this opportunity, I’m not going to lie to you, I was really, really excited,” Oregon’s new defensive coordinator said. 

Avalos said Oregon' tradition, brand and fresh excitement that Cristobal is bringing to the program is why he chose to leave his alma mater, where he coached for seven seasons, three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Avalos’ scheme, which Cristobal described as complex for the opponent and simple for Oregon, was a main reason Oregon hired the former Bronco star linebacker.

Avalos runs the same 3-4 base that former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt did in 2018, but it differs with a variety of switches based on personnel packages.

The multiplicity of Avalos’ scheme appealed to Cristobal. The word “multiple” was probably used 20 times in his introductory press conference.

Avalos switches between three and four-man and “Bear” fronts and one and two-down linemen packages. He utilizes and will coach the STUD position; hybrid edge players with a pass rushing priority but also can drop into coverage and stop the run.

This could be a huge opportunity for outside linebackers La’Mar Winston Jr., Adrian Jackson and incoming freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux.

The goal will be to force identification issues, movement issues and structural issues to the opposing offense. No doubt Avalos’ past defenses have been versatile and disruptive. In the Las Vegas Bowl, Herbert was sacked four times, Oregon’s offense totaled 280 total yards and Boise State scored on a pick-six.

[READ: Leavitt didn’t fit Cristobal’s vision; A decade in the making]

Last season, Avalos coached a unit that ranked 10th nationally in sacks (3.0 per game) and 20th nationally in turnovers forced (24) with 17 fumble recoveries, the most in the country. He will be taking over a UO unit that finished 42nd in the nation in yards allowed per play. The Duck defense returns eight starters led by star linebacker Troy Dye and adds some of the nation’s top talent, Thibodeaux and linebacker Mase Funa, who could make an impact right away.