EUGENE, Oregon — The Oregon football team was in full pads for the first time in camp on Saturday morning. Day 6 ended a grueling first week of practice for the Ducks. UO will return to the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex on Tuesday night.
After a few days in helmets only, the team was introduced to shells on Day 4. Two days later, the Ducks were in full pads and scrimmaging in front of game officials to conclude the week.
We witnessed many youngsters impress, including safety Brenden Schooler’s switch to wide receiver. Veterans and freshmen are coming together as the Ducks continue to build chemistry.
Overall, you couldn’t ask for much more at this time of the year. Just 28 days from the opener vs Southern Utah, the players can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
All week, No. 14 Demetri Burch was working alongside quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Braxton Burmeister. However, the freshman athlete was not wearing the red jersey that usually accompanies the position in practice. That was until Saturday.
The highly-recruited Floridian was the 65th-best athlete in the country (247sports) and No. 27 overall wide receiver product in his state according to scout.com. At running back, Burch amassed over 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a junior in high school. It has been exciting to watch him with the ball in his hands.
In his red jersey, Burch scampered into the end zone for a touchdown in the Duck scrimmage. On a day when the defense was once again the storyline, Burch stood out from the offense. He is a welcomed sight of depth to a thin QB position.
“I’d like to see the execution be a little more consistent on both sides of the ball,” Willie Taggart reiterated at Saturday’s practice. “Just continue to get better. The big key for us is to continue to develop some guys and build some depth.”
Royce Freeman also punched in a score of his own from the goal line. But that was about it for the offensive highlights, as the defense took charge. Saturday’s scrimmage culminated Oregon’s first week of fall camp.
Linebackers Jonah Moi and Justin Hollins were two names mentioned by players on Saturday following their scrimmage performance. Sophomore Gus Cumberlander has been on the rise the last few days, as well.
Cornerback Ugo Amadi continues to excel on defense this fall. No. 7 in a green practice jersey has been all over the field and he continued that trend on Saturday with a few brilliant plays during the scrimmage that impressed his head coach.
“Guys are flying to the ball,” Taggart stated. “They’re communicating really well. That’s been really impressive. It’s good to see them flying around, communicating and making plays.”
Brady Breeze, Khalil Oliver and Tyree Robinson have been sharing time at safety since the departure of Schooler to the offense. All three will garner loads of playing time this season, regardless of who is officially the starter.
We will have a safety revision for Jim Leavitt’s Starting 11 that will be published on Sunday.
The kicker hasn’t been involved much in camp, but Aidan Schneider drilled two field goals in Saturday’s scrimmage. They were his only two attempts in a game situation thus far in camp.
“We’re getting better at every position,” Taggart echoed again on Saturday morning. “Our football team is getting better. The competition is where we need it to be. I’ve been really impressed.”
On Friday, Taggart was asked about Clemson transfer Scott Pagano and his current recovery. The head coach was positive that his senior is on the right track.
“He’s getting better,” said Taggart. “The foot is healing pretty good. He’s ahead of schedule now, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
After a few off days for rest and recovery, the Ducks will be back in action on Tuesday night. Week 2 is sure to spark some fireworks as we head toward the dog days of summer.
We'll continue to post interviews with Taggart and his players on a daily basis.