EUGENE, Oregon — Duck football participated in their second straight practice with shells on Friday from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. The storyline over the last few days has been the insertion of safety Brenden Schooler into the Oregon offense at wide receiver. Day 5 of fall camp was no different.
Entering the season, Schooler was considered one of the elite Duck defenders. With his ability on defense, coordinator Jim Leavitt had a new dimension of possibilities. However, the team has been working him out on offense because they have a plethora of safety depth.
Guys like Brady Breeze, Tyree Robinson, and Khalil Oliver lead a handful of safety options.
“He’s over there, he better be a wide receiver now,” Taggart joked. “For a guy that hasn’t played the position for us, he’s picked up some things really well. The kid has really strong hands and great ball skills. And he can run. He’s done a good job. I think he can do this.”
Schooler is supremely gifted with the ability to play a handful of positions.
“Like I said, he has great ball skills, really strong hands and he can run,” Taggart replied. “All the things you’re looking for and he has some size. I’m really excited to see him continue to grow at that position and see how the Herbert-Schooler combination helps us.”
According to the UO head coach, the safety position has become crowded with talent.
“We have some depth there (safety), only so many can play,” said Taggart. “Overall, we just got to see what’s best for our football team. We felt like putting Schooler over there could help our football team.”
Only time will tell how this will materializes, but right now the team is excited by it. The No. 1 priority continues to be the total improvement of a 4-8 team from 2016.
“Well, I don’t know about last season. But, this camp guys are flying to the ball,” the head coach stated. “They’re communicating really well. That’s been really impressive. It’s good to see them flying around, communicating and making plays.”
The total effort of the Oregon football program is keeping the coach satisfied, for the moment.
“We’re getting better at every position,” Taggart echoed on Friday morning before practice. “Our football team is getting better. The competition is where we need it to be. I’ve been really impressed.”
Overall, the first-year Oregon coach has a great mindset about his situation. He understands you can have outstanding recruiting but the only outcome that matters are the results on the field.
“It’s going to continue to be a rebuild until you do something. We haven’t played a game or anything,” said Taggart. “We are still trying to build the way we know and the way we want it to be. You say rebuild, but I want to get back to our winning ways. There are things we need to get better at.”
An interesting development this camp has been the depth at quarterback. There is a great deal of inexperience behind the starter, Justin Herbert. However, the head coach does not and will not think about injuries. He will adjust if and when they arise.
“We don’t think about injuries, we don’t worry about injuries,” Taggart stated defiantly. “Those things happen when they’re going to happen. Those are things we can’t control. If we worry about that, that’s when we’ll handcuff ourselves. Those things happen and if it happens, it’s the next guy up. All we think about now is just developing guys at the position. But, we’re not concerned with injuries. They happen and we can’t control it. We got some tough guys, so we’ll be okay.”
Just as Schooler is entering the offense at wide receiver, Dillon Mitchell has been absent from camp with an illness. Coach T is looking forward to getting back his receiver in the next few days.
“Mitchell won’t be practicing today,” said the head coach on Friday. “He had an illness and he’s getting over that now. Hopefully, we’ll have him back out here soon.”
Another day, another solid improvement for the Oregon football team. Coach Taggart and his coaching staff have their players heading in the right direction, on and off the field. Building chemistry has been a gigantic priority of Taggart and we will focus on it this Saturday after Day 6 of fall camp.
We'll continue to post interviews with Taggart and his players on a daily basis.