EUGENE, Oregon — The Ducks took to the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex on Wednesday afternoon for their eighth day of fall camp. Willie Taggart’s coaching staff addressed the media before practice commenced.
A big message this week has been for the players to find consistency. Whether they are on the field or in their daily life, finding their rhythm in essential. After seven days of practice, the coaches believe their players are starting to find it.
“Once you get into that first week, there are always those bumps and bruises,” said Oregon co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. “Those peaks and valleys of practice. That’s pretty normal. We can really hone in on the process itself instead of the result.”
After receiving his red jersey on Saturday, quarterback Demetri Burch is getting his feet wet with Justin Herbert and the quarterback group. His potential has the Oregon coaches excited. However, Arroyo understands the unit as a whole is inexperienced.
Minus Justin, inexperienced. Well, first Coach Taggart (decision to make Burch a full-time QB). And then we felt like he did some really nice things in the room and added some depth. We’ve enjoyed having him in the room.
In 1998, Marcus Arroyo started at quarterback for San Jose State as a true freshman. Burch couldn’t ask for a better mentor.
“It’s been a good process for him this week,” Arroyo said. “Seven days in as a true freshman, adding to the depth level. He’s done some nice things. I’ll think we’ll continue there until we can add value.”
Brenden Schooler’s transition from safety to wide receiver has been smooth. His coaches see constant growth from him, but they realize there is more to being a receiver than just catching touchdowns.
“Run, block, catch,” Arroyo said with a smile about Schooler. “No blocky, no rocky.”
Oregon’s defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt found some time to express his respect and admiration for head coach Willie Taggart. Enough good things can’t be said for what the coach has done thus far.
“He’s just great,” said Leavitt. “He’s a great teacher. He’s great with young people. He’s just a heck of a coach.”
Last season, a big issue with the defense was forcing turnovers. This year, Leavitt is focusing an awareness to create turnovers.
“It’s not luck,” said Leavitt defiantly. “It’s a conscious effort. You got to work very hard at it. You got to know how to work at it. It’s something that we’re going to do to get the takeaways.”
Pressure creates havoc which forces teams into turnovers; this is a basic principle most understand. Most of the pressure from a Leavitt 3-4 defense stems from his front seven. The DC has been extremely impressed by UO’s defensive line coach.
It’s been good. A lot better than last spring. They are starting to get an idea. Joe Salave'a is one of the best d-line coaches in the country. He’s really got them playing pretty well. Obviously, all coaches are going to say the same thing, ‘we’re not there, we got ways to go’ but he’s a good coach. He’s done a great job with those guys.
Currently, the Duck coaching staff is installing their playbook. For some newcomers, this is their fourth install since spring. The repetitions have only helped their understanding of what is needed from them during the fall.
“It’s better than last spring because we just put it in last spring,” Leavitt stated. “They worked on it in the winter and spring and the summer. This is the fourth time going through it. We hope they have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing. We haven’t played a game yet. It all comes down to playing games. Until you produce then, we don’t know. They’ve done a good job with it.”
Throughout spring and summer, the freshmen have been making their presence felt on defense. Yet, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will not rule out a freshman playing on the line again this season.
Nowadays in college football, if you’re a freshman, guys are capable. You can get them ready to play. That’s my history as an offensive line coach. Freshmen play. If you’re capable, willing and they do exactly what they need to do, they’ll play.
We'll continue to post interviews with Taggart and his coaches/players on a daily basis.