It's common knowledge at this point that Oregon football practices are closed, both to the public and the media. Head coach Chip Kelly does this for a number of reasons: to eliminate distractions, to establish consistency, and to keep some sort of secrecy surrounding his much-studied offense. But it doesn't change the fact that we have no way of knowing what is happening inside the Mo Center.
But we can pretend. Oh, we can pretend.
The atmosphere inside the Moshofsky Center was so palpable you could taste it, and I mean that in the most literal of terms. You could literally taste the air. Every time you open your mouth in that building, you get a gulp of orange Gatorade, protein powder, and that fresh-out-the-box new shoe smell. Pleasant and off-putting. There were no players on the field yet, only wide receivers coach Scott Frost, who was building a small campfire in the west endzone. I asked him his purpose, and he merely replied, "It worked for Tom Osborne." I'm not one to argue with a national champion.
The whole team hit the field en masse, and immediately started into the first set of drills. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich called out "Fourth quarter!" and quarterback Bryan Bennett sprung into action, rushing the offense to the line, barking out a hard count, and then backing off and looking to the sideline. The play clock, which was a student manager counting down from 25 at the top of his lungs, reached 5. Bennett stepped back up, called for the snap, and ran a basic inside zone read. This went on for an hour and a half. It was riveting.
The defensive line was intensely focused on something called the "Housekeys" drill. Each lineman had five seconds to push a blocking sled ten yards, then sprint ten more to defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who was holding the player's housekeys above his head, and screaming in what I believe was a 6th century BC Aramaic dialect. If you didn't reach coach, you didn't get your keys. If you didn't reach coach during the entire drill, you had to sleep in your car that night. On a related note, I talked to 300 pound tackle Wade Keliikipi after practice, and he said his neck was beginning to hurt from three consecutive nights sleeping in his Ford Fiesta. He also seemed very worried about the health of his goldfish.
The secondary was in street clothes today, but none of them were injured. In lieu of doing drills, the defensive backfield spent the day in a conference room, brainstorming nicknames for themselves. There hasn't been a signature secondary since the D Boyz, and this group feels that being united under a single banner should come before any on-field concerned. Names still in the running: The Jail, because they put people on lockdown; The Flu, because they're so sick, and they're an airborne threat; and The Fat Girls With That One Hot Friend You've Had Your Eye On, because nobody's gonna score when they're around.
I'm not sure when the pteranodons showed up. When I noticed them, there were already six or seven flying around above the punt coverage drill. Kenny Bassett dropped a fair catch, and the creatures swarmed him. Kenjon Barner called the giant pterosaurs "a very effective motivation tool."
At 1:30, the entire Mo Center was flooded with a foot of water, and the team ran the afternoon's drills though the shallows. The resistance of the water slowed down the first-team offense, who could only manage to drive down the field in 1 minute, 3 seconds, as opposed to their normal 1:22. I heard mention of there being sharks, but no one dropped a pass during the drill, so they were never released.
The session ended with the coaching staff performing a live rendition of the John Hughes coming-of-age classic, "The Breakfast Club". As long as I live, I will always remember the tears streaming down Mark Helfrich's face as he recalled taping Larry Lester's buns together. Goosebumps. All in all, just another day at Oregon football practice.
...I think I'm in the ballpark.