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Oregon football returns with focus on bowl preparation and fundamentals amid Willie Taggart rumors

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Ducks keep moving forward, no matter the daily news

Photo courtesy of Tony Piraro

While the coaches were spending some time with the future of the program, Oregon football took a few days off following their historic 59-point victory against Oregon State on Saturday. UO returned on Friday for an indoor practice amid swirling rumors.

With the largest media contingent of the season on hand, everyone was waiting for head coach Willie Taggart to address the Florida State rumors.

While the nerves were never calmed by anything the head coach said, this team is looking forward to the next step. It certainly didn’t hurt to get back on the field.

“To pick up where we left off,” Justin Herbert stated. “We took some days off. Get back with the receivers and get some timing down. Just work on our offense.”

Royce Freeman takes part in practice on Friday afternoon. The senior workhorse literally ended his college football regular season on a perfect note. Not only did he help dismantle OSU in the Civil War, but he rewrote the Pac-12 record books.
Photo courtesy of Tony Piraro

The Duck signal-caller is just excited to be playing in his first career bowl game. Wherever it may be.

“I haven’t paid any attention to it,” said Herbert in reference to a particular destination. “I’m good with any bowl we go to. I’m just thankful we’re going to a bowl.”

The starting quarterback is simply happy to be playing football after suffering a fractured collarbone in Week 5 vs Cal. The injury kept him off the field for seven weeks. He returned in Week 12 to lead UO to bowl eligibility and a two-game winning streak.

“It feels really good. I haven't had any problems with it,” Herbert said when asked about his collarbone.

Overall, Herbert completed 113-of-170 attempts for 1,750 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season. Can you imagine if he played a full slate plus a bowl game? #Heisman2018

With Oregon’s extra time to prepare for a bowl opponent, the scholar athlete believes his team will be more than ready.

“We normally get ready for an opponent in a week. I think we’ll do a good job of preparing and get after it.”

Alongside the sophomore Herbert, junior Jalen Jelks addressed the media from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. This season, he has elevated his game to another level with 50 tackles, 15.5 TFL and seven sacks.

Jalen Jelks joked around with the media on Friday afternoon. The redshirt junior had an incredible season and is looking forward to one more game with the seniors.
Photo courtesy of Tony Piraro

For the Phoenix native, he’s looking forward to more time with his teammates.

“Basically, another week with our seniors,” stated Jelks. “Practice with our friends before they get a chance to leave.”

Jelks has been a centerpiece player of the defense, alongside Troy Dye and Justin Hollins in 2017. Yet, he knows the hard part has just begun.

With large improvement comes major expectations moving forward. It will be interesting to see how Jelks’ new fame suits him. As for now, he’s focused on improving even more.

“We’re just working on our practice,” Jelks replied. “We’re still going over the Oregon State game. We just watched a little bit of film with our coordinators.”

As for a bowl destination, he’s not nearly as picky as his teammate Arrion Springs, who is pushing hard for Las Vegas. Go figure.

“That’s Arrion, of course,” Jelks laughed. “Of course.”

Thomas Graham Jr. and Arrion Springs participate in defensive drills on Friday. Following their dominant performance on Saturday, the secondary is looking to end their season on a high note.
Photo courtesy of Tony Piraro

For people like Herbert and Jelks, this bowl game appearance is cause for celebration. It’s refreshing to see two guys who really appreciate the process. In a modern world where players bail out of All-Star games and bowl appearances, it’s nice to see a few that embrace it.

“Especially after last year, being able to have the chance to play another game with our seniors and capitalize on our win,” Jelks said emphatically.

Then, the defensive end was asked about his head coach.

“We’re just keeping it as a team thing now. We addressed it a little bit in a team meeting. Just talked about it shortly. He’s with the Ducks right now.”

When asked directly if the rumors are affecting players, Jelks responded honestly.

Oregon is looking to follow their team motto for the season, “Fast. Hard. Finish.” No matter who they play in a bowl game, the Ducks will be bringing a lot of juice.
Photo courtesy of Tony Piraro

“No, not really. He (Coach Tag) kind of brought it up in one-on-one stuff. Wanted to keep it between a couple people,” responded Jelks.

Well, that settles it! Just add a little more uncertainty to the entire situation. Nevertheless, the highlight of the day was the fact that the Ducks were back at work preparing for their first bowl game in two years.

Right now, this is all we have to work with. Much more on these developments, plus Oregon’s bowl opponent coming up this weekend.

Stay tuned, if you want to; Twitter @TheQuackFiend Gram @eugene_levys_eyebrows