Eugene, Oregon — Day 2 of Oregon’s fall camp came and went on Tuesday morning from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. The plan for the day was to conserve energy with Wednesday’s 108-degree forecast on the horizon.
Head coach Willie Taggart has done a brilliant job of making his vision a reality. The Oregon football program seems back on track after a one-year derailment. If you ask Coach T, he will tell you he is just getting warmed up (pun intended).
“It’s go time,” said Taggart. “The honeymoon is over and we’re ready to roll.”
As we noted on Monday, Taggart and his staff have begun freshmen practices this camp. It will give the younger guys an opportunity to get reps that wouldn’t be there normally. The fact that two-a-days no longer exist enabled this opportunity.
“All the guys are going to get a ton of reps,” said the Oregon head coach. “It gives us a chance as coaches to really coach them up. So when they get with our varsity guys there is no drag.”
Last season is in the past, but even though Taggart wasn’t in Eugene, he won’t let the players forget either. It’s a total mindset from this lead man.
“We don’t want to forget those losses,” said Taggart. “We want to move on but we don’t want to forget those losses. We have to work to make sure those things don’t happen. I know it hurts and they hate seeing that, but those things happen.”
Once again, the Duck defense was flying around the ball. As the offense gets up to speed, the defense seems to already be there, waiting for them. With generic offensive plays being run to start camp, the defense usually has a leg up.
Overall Brady Breeze, Thomas Graham Jr. and Tyree Robinson highlighted Day 2 of camp after Ugo Amadi and Brenden Schooler impressed in Day 1 action.
Freshman safety Billy Gibson snagged an interception for his first highlight of the fall camp. The 6-foot-1 Florida product began his Oregon career with three tackles and an interception at the 2017 Spring Game.
It was the second of two days that fall practice was open to the public. In UO’s daily 7-on-7 scrimmage, two freshmen linebackers thoroughly impressed the onlooking crowd. Both Isaac Slade-Matautia and Sampson Niu registered interceptions on Day 2.
“If I feel they need more, I’ll give them more reps,” Taggart stated. “If I feel they need less, I’ll give them less. Right now, we’re going to scrimmage and hit a little bit.”
One thing we all have to keep in mind is there’s a lot on the line for these kids and the tension is running high constantly. Jobs are at stake on a daily basis, so nobody should be surprised by some hostility.
Cornerback Thomas Graham and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell threw a couple punches at one another. It’s nothing to be concerned with except two football players who saw their desire outweigh their composure for a moment. The coaches diffused the situation quickly. These things happen in the heat of camp on the first of August.
“We told our guys to run the practices like pros. Have you ever been to a pro practice? They don’t do a lot of tackling,” said Taggart. “They stay off the ground. It’s important that we go fast, get low and keep our feet moving.”
Quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Braxton Burmeister were joined by senior Taylor Alie on Tuesday morning. The presumptive third string QB missed Monday’s practice with an illness. After the offseason transfers of both Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson, the Ducks are dangerously thin at the most important position in the sport.
Nevertheless, Herbert is making everyone feel good with his array of passing skills. Not only has his game developed further, but he is maturing and you can tell pretty easily.
He’s no longer a passive freshman in the back of a line. Herbert’s leading the pack now and legitimately more vocal. You have to give him credit, alongside Taggart.
“We have a long camp, we don’t have to rush anything,” replied Taggart. “We have to work on all the little things to get better and faster. Ultimately, schematically we’re going to take our steps to get there.”
It’s interesting to watch the relationship between the Ducks’ head coach and the sophomore gunslinger. The former college duel-threat QB will be coaching/mentoring Herbert until he exits Oregon. They seem very close already. Taggart has made Herbert more comfortable in the offense and his own skin. Watch their bond evolve.
“There were a lot of people that came before us (at Oregon) that worked their tail off to get us the things that we have here,” the head coach stated. “We need to make sure we put in the work to get the program back where it belongs.”
On a side note, sophomore center Zach Okun has left the football program. He departed Monday’s first day of fall camp and will not return. Okun will officially medically retire but plans to graduate from Oregon.
We'll continue to post interviews with Taggart on a daily basis.