This Saturday at 11 am is our first dose of Duck football since the glorious Rose Bowl win on January 2nd. The last few months have been like walking through a desert, and now we come upon an oasis. There may be only a pool of water, but it's something that just might get us through until the season. What always makes me most excited is to see the full roster and how they perform, what roles it appears people may have in the offense and defense, and base strategies have changed (such as adding in formations where the quarterback was under center last spring).
With that being said here are a few things I'm going to look at during the spring game. (Just a heads up, with nobody really seeing the practices this spring game is going to be overanalyzed, which includes me just simply out of boredom and a need for Duck football.)
One of the positions I'm most interested in is the defensive secondary. I think a big key to beating USC in the fall, on top of a solid pass rush, is going to be staying closer to Marqise Lee than the defense was last year. It's incredibly difficult as both Robert Woods and Marqise Lee could be a number one receiver on almost any team and Oregon now needs a couple cornerbacks to cover them. Terrance Mitchell did really well last year so I'm looking forward to see how Dior Mathis, Troy Hill, and projected starter Ifo Ekpre-Olomu match up against Oregon's receivers. Rather than look at the practice and see who played that better that day I find its better to look at the unit as a whole, which includes the players vying for the strong safety position.
On the flip side, the receivers are going to be another unit that will be looked at a lot for improvement. I think most of the troubles last year came from a lack of separation between them and their defender. Last year Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler, and BJ Kelley were redshirted last year but are all really fast. Returning starters include Josh Huff, Justin Hoffman, and Rahsaan Vaughn. Daryle Hawkins was said to be doing well during spring practices and it sounds like Huff has been working in the TZR spot as opposed to being a true receiver. This unit has to be better, just because it couldn't have been more frustrating last year.
The quarterbacks. Yes, the quarterbacks. I know this probably wasn't obvious to everyone but the quarterback race is going to be really interesting. Marcus Mariota will be paired with De'Anthony Thomas in the backfield and the Bryan Bennett will be paired with Kenjon Barner. I'm mostly looking to see who has the best control of the offense (whatever I can pick up) by changing plays, avoiding negative plays, and how they go through their progressions.
For running backs De'Anthony Thomas will be the one to watch as we already have a good idea of what Kenjon Barner can do with a lot of carries. How Thomas is used, which coaches have said will be a more traditional running back role, is going to be interesting as well as how the coaches split up the carries. For people who love the nitty gritty part of football I suggest you also watch how Thomas and Barner pick up blitzes.
Front 7 (Really just the new guy)
The front seven on defense is solid but obvious guy to watch will be Arik Armstead, the new freshman who enrolled early and looks absolutely massive. He will play this year and I'm excited to see him in person against college linemen.
While the spring game is a glorified practice it accomplishes two things. First, we get to see our full team in action. Second, we can get a better idea of depth, strengths, and weaknesses. What are you guys going to be looking for in the spring game?