The long winter was over. Spring was finally here. The birds were chirping, the sun was coming out...finally! I walked down the tunnel onto Rich Brooks Field and into Autzen Stadium. I soaked it all in and felt wonderful. It made it that much harder to wait for football season, especially knowing that today marked the midway point of spring ball. I saw some familiar plays, some not so familiar plays, and some concerns. Overall though, I came out of it thinking that we are in good hands with Chip and crew, and the future looks bright. The statistics below are just estimates and I'm betting some of the news media at the game will have more accurate stats. I'll get those posted as I hear about them. JJ was also at the scrimmage and I'm pretty sure he scored another touchdown against Oregon State while he was there. In any event, onto the impressions.
First thing I noticed coming out of the tunnel was Jerry Azzinaro running some defensive line drills. The line was going through a variety of sets and alignments based on a variety of calls. One thing I jumped quickly on was what appeared to be some 3 down lineman sets with one lineman dropping back into coverage. I'm not sure if this is indicative of some 3-4 defensive sets but it caught my eye right away. Outside of Chip Kelly, Azzinaro appeared to be the most vocal.
The rest of the team came out for warmups after about 20 minutes and we moved to the 50 yard line, front row on the covered side. We had the interesting view of place kickers warming up, kicking the ball horizontally across the field. Morgan Flint was kicking towards us but he never quite got into the first row. All of the kickers seem really small except for Justin Dougherty. At 6-6, he seems more like a wideout than a kicker but he made quite a few nice kicks throughout the day. To our left, the long snappers were practicing their trade and performing quite well. There was 1 or 2 out of 10 that were a bit high but the majority were right on the money. Not bad for warming up. LaGarrette Blount looked a little slow in parts during practice, presumably because of his weight. He did get better as the day went on. A couple times, he ran a bit too close to the QB on the option reads but that will get worked out as spring practice progresses.
The horn sounded and the scrimmage started. Defense had the green jerseys, Offense had the white ones on. The practice uniforms are circa 2003 style I would guess, some were fairly beat up and faded. Chip Kelly was on the field for the entire scrimmage, standing about 30 yards behind the offense on each set. The setup wasn't like a normal game. Each offensive team was given scenarios and essentially could go until they got stopped. Sometimes Chip would have the same team replay a down or switch out to an entirely different group in the middle of a drive.
Not the first play, but Jeremiah Masoli ripped off a huge 50 yard run on a zone read play. He also had a good day passing the ball, going 9 for 13 for about 150 yards or so. He was making some very good decisions with the ball. He ran when it was appropriate, handed the ball off when he saw an opening and hit some receivers down the field on crisp passes. He is definitely the number one guy based on his performance today. Justin Roper had a couple of nice drives and some good passes, especially on curl routes to the wideouts. This may surprise most of you, but The Rope had a really good run on the zone read for about 25 yards and also kept an option play to score a touchdown. On a "time winding down" scenario, he had a great run for a 1st down...only to be thwarted by a hands to the face penalty on the offensive line. Justin didn't like that at all and seem frustrated by that on the sidelines. He also had a good day going 7 for 13 for around 120 or so. He still has some issues making the right read in the option. At times, he game the ball to the back only to get stuffed right away. In each case, it looked like another option was open if he made a different call. He also had some nice throws down field. Darron Thomas had a tough day. He was 4 for 13 passing and was routinely throwing the ball over the head of receivers. He made some nice runs but he is clearly the number 3 quarterback right now behind Roper. I'm hoping the coaching staff decides to try and redshirt him again. If his performance today is any indication, he could use some more seasoning back there and he won't beat out the other guys fighting for the position, at least at this point in spring ball.
Jamere Holland had 6 catches for 50 yards and is as fast as advertised. The reports of him having a great spring are, by all accounts, right on the money. He made a couple of nice grabs in front of various defenders. A lot of receivers were touching the ball today depending on the unit. Garrett Embry seemed to be having his name called quite a bit throughout the scrimmage.
Our field goal kicking was perfect on the day with no one really standing out above anyone else...well, except for Dougherty but he's 6-6 so not sure what you can say about that. He is a full head above all of our other kickers in height. I still think Morgan Flint still has the job but I didn't see much of him today. Lots of chances for other guys though. Our punting game is a cause for concern at this point. Very few boomers, quite a few 30-40 yard punts with no return. Jeff Maehl, at one point, said "We need a punter so bad....so bad". Performance was not very good in this area of the game for the Ducks. We are going to miss Josh Syria a LOT.
As I mentioned earlier, LaGarrette Blount appeared to be a little slow in certain drills but he seemed to be having a great time. During one pass catching drill, he was singing with his fellow running backs. He had some nice runs in the scrimmage but overall, the running game was stuffed early and often by the defense. No one had over a 4 ypc average (except for Masoli on his option reads). Blount was doing what Blount does. He was running over and carrying people with him for extra yardage. Didn't see him around the edge too much, he was mainly used on dive plays. When he gets back to his playing weight, he should be the same force we saw last year. Andre Crenshaw was getting most of the reps behind him and looked pretty good. He had a nice run around the right side, shook off a tackler, stopped on a dime and hit the endzone for a touchdown. Reminded me of a certain back we had last year. It will be interesting to see how well he progresses during fall camp. Remene Alston was in for a few plays early but at one point, he was standing right in front of where we were sitting, talking to a trainer. She was trying to convince him that it wouldn't hurt for him to get something looked at. He didn't seem thrilled with participating in whatever she was trying to sell him into doing. I got distracted for a play or two, next thing I know, both of them are gone. I didn't see him for the rest of the scrimmage. Hopefully it was only precautionary. I didn't see anything specifically happen to him but he was not thrilled.
I didn't notice too much going on in the trenches. There were a lot of bad snaps from center that would have gotten away from more inexperienced quarterbacks. There was one point that Darren Thomas did cover a fumbled snap that got by him. Some were high, some were low, some were off to the side. We are going to miss the steady hand of Max Unger on the offensive line. I would expect a lot of work to be done here. Protection by the offensive lines was pretty good in all sets. Outside of a few breakdowns, all of the quarterbacks had plenty of time and opportunities to throw the ball downfield or make good reads. The defensive line was doing ok but they weren't getting much pressure on the quarterbacks and not forcing many bad throws or plays. This should improve though. The issues looked to be more scheme-related than anything else.
My Personal Grades
Offense - B+
Defense - C+
Kicking - A-
Punting - D+