EUGENE, Oregon — The shoulder pads were added to the mix on Thursday, as Oregon was introduced to their shells on Day 4 of fall camp. The Ducks are champing at the bit to get their full pads on, as opening day vs Southern Utah is just 30 days away.
Unfortunately, we’re at that time of camp when the media can only watch the first 20 minutes of practice before exiting. Nevertheless, we will continue to have daily interviews with head coach Willie Taggart and his players for you.
While the team was getting used to their shells on Thursday morning, the Oregon lead man and his quarterback addressed the media contingent prior to practice from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
“It will be interesting to see how the day goes with pads on,” said Taggart with a big smile. “It will be a little different with pads.”
The head coach was very positive about camp thus far but knows this is when the real players begin to step up.
“I just want guys to come and execute like they’re used to,” said Taggart. “I don't think we’ll see as many ‘All-American’s’ today, but you want to see guys go out and compete and execute at a high level. Get those pads clacking nice and loud. Move people up front and execute.”
A big part of fall practice is incorporating freshmen into the system. Nothing has changed from that aspect, even with a new head coach at the program.
Thus far, Oregon’s freshmen are setting the bar for performance standards. Some of them have landed the approval of their coach, as well.
“Right now, it’s that learning stage for a lot of these guys,” Taggart stated. “Trying to learn the plays, then execute on top of it. I think the more they learn, the better the execution will be with all of them. I’ve been impressed with a lot of them here early in camp. Once we go on and look back, I think we’ll see those guys perform a lot better.”
Sometimes camp is best for finding the right position for each player. Maybe you have a good player at one position, but he could be great in another spot on the other side. For the Ducks, they have a few guys playing on both sides of the ball this camp.
Safety Brenden Schooler is getting his crack at wide receiver. Apparently, the sophomore had been politicking his abilities to the coaching staff and his teammates.
“We’re going to put Schooler over there and see what he can do,” said Taggart. “Yesterday we let him run a couple routes and he looked pretty good. So we figure we’ll see what he can do. We’re trying to find the best position for every player on our football team.”
Even the guy throwing him the ball had an opinion on the matter.
“Brenden Schooler the receiver?” Herbert said rhetorically. “He’s super athletic. He’s good on both sides of the ball. I'm just glad to have him on our team.”
For Herbert, he understands this part of camp better as a second-year player. Not to mention, the sophomore realizes this is when the defense is ahead of the offense.
It’s a little more physical. When guys step out there, there is more hitting. Overall, it’s much more physical out there. They’re really fired up. They're playing together right now. They are flying around. They're getting to the football and playing with a lot of energy.
Oregon’s coaching staff has been working almost non-stop since their arrival in Eugene. They’re battling to ensure the problems of the past do not return. But the coaches are not the only ones working to prevent another 2016 season.
“The coaches have done a great job of getting us up to speed,” Herbert stated. “The receivers have put in a lot of effort into the playbook. They really know what they’re doing. The running backs too and the offensive line, as well. It just makes our job easier.”
Herbert has seen the light. After attending the Peyton Manning Passing Academy, he realized hard work is done on the field with your receivers AFTER a regular practice ends. That is when a connection is made and trust is built.
“We just have to be out here. We have to be out here with each other,” Herbert said of his receivers. “We have to trust them that they're running the right routes and they have to trust me that I’ll get the ball to them.”
As Herbert works on his timing with players, the QB finds himself getting to know his offensive teammates better off the field. Players like his slot receiver and go-to target, Charles Nelson.
“Charles is a really great guy,” said Herbert of his roommate. “I think it’s great we’re getting an opportunity to spend time with each other. One thing is he’s not a great 2K player. We play a lot of 2K and he’s okay, but I’m taking it to him right now.”
Three players have stood out to Herbert after four days of practice.
“Johnny Johnson on the outside, he's done a really great job,” Herbert said without hesitation. “Jaylon Redd and Daewood Davis. They've stepped up. They know what they're doing.”
We'll continue to post interviews with Taggart and his players on a daily basis.