EUGENE, Oregon — Head coach Willie Taggart and his coaching staff are currently preparing their team for the first road game of the 2017 season. When Oregon takes the field in Laramie on Saturday, they will be matched up against a future NFL star in the form of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.
Before we get to Coach T’s breakdown of the elite prospect, a few slight adjustments have been made to the Ducks’ starting 11. Cornerback Ugo Amadi and linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. are now full-time starters on the Oregon defense.
Winston began to open eyes over the last month of fall camp. The freshman took some time with the playbook install, but once it clicked everything seemingly fell into place.
“La’Mar really came on in training camp the last couple weeks,” said Taggart. “Like the other guys, it seemed like he woke up one day, had a drink of milk and the light just turned on. He started to play the game like he’s supposed to defensively; physical, a lot of passion, a lot of energy and he started making plays. He’s been consistently playing that way.”
The freshmen have been the theme around the program this year. Last year, we saw Troy Dye and Justin Herbert excel as true freshmen. This season, we are seeing freshmen making contributions at every position.
“That helps with other guys when it comes to competing,” Taggart stated. “We believe that’s the kind of player he (Winston) can be for us. Excited about how he’s come along with his energy. He’s not thinking as much as relying on instinct.”
It didn’t take long for Amadi to top the depth chart in the defensive backfield. Arrion Springs reverted to old habits early-on this season and is not playing to his potential. Whereas, Amadi and true freshman Thomas Graham Jr. have been too impressive to sit.
After two games, Graham and Amadi each have two interceptions. Entering their toughest test to date versus a true gunslinger, Oregon needs their best corners patrolling the Wyoming receivers.
Taggart isn’t phased by playing outside of Autzen Stadium. In fact, he welcomes any opportunity to compete with his team.
“It’s just a game,” said Taggart. “You get another opportunity to play. It really doesn’t matter where you play, but that opportunity to be blessed to go out and compete. That’s the attitude we want our team to have. No matter where we go, it’s the opportunity we have.”
No road test would be complete without something to lose sleep over. For the Ducks and Taggart this week, those sleepless nights can be attributed to Wyoming QB Josh Allen. The future NFL big shot is primed for a breakout performance.
“He’s a big time player,” said the Oregon head coach. “He can make all the throws, you’ve heard that. We get a chance to see it and hopefully, we get to put pressure on him and not allow him to make some of those throws for everybody to see.”
Taggart understands if Allen has time in the pocket, he will shred any team placed in front of him. The Ducks must create havoc up front so that the DBs aren’t trapped on an island with the Cowboy pass-catchers.
“He’s a talent,” Taggart said. “We’re going to have to do a good job of pressuring him and do a good job of staying with the receivers.”
Allen struggled on the road against Iowa in the season opener. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 174 yards and two interceptions. The 6-foot-5 quarterback passed for 328 yards and two TDs last week against an outclassed Garder-Webb team.
Against Oregon, Wyoming will play ball control football. They will look keep the Ducks’ offense off the field as long as possible. But don’t be fooled, Allen will not hesitate to play at a frenetic pace. The Cowboy QB is deadliest when he escapes from the pocket.
He really does a great job when he gets out of the pocket. Finding open guys so our DBs got to do a great job of what we call ‘plastering’ receivers if he does get out of the box. We got to come ready to play because he’s a big time player.
It will be interesting to watch Oregon’s defense against a top-notch quarterback. Not to mention, the road always brings different elements. This is the perfect test for a team heading toward the start of the Pac-12 Conference season next week in Tempe.
Oregon (2-0) will venture to Wyoming (1-1) for their first road test of the season on Saturday. Quarterback Josh Allen should present the Ducks with their most-serious challenge yet. Kickoff is slated for 4:00 p.m. PT from War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.