Oregon's #3-ranked football team ran 130 plays today, in a situational scrimmage Mark Helfrich described as "live clock, live action, down and distance situation," a close-to-the-real-thing workout with officials that allowed coaches to get a good, extended look at young guys with the season 17 days away.
Burnin' down the house: Byron "Smash" Marshall stood out as one of the stars in Oregon's first scrimmage of fall camp, a good sign for the Webfoot offense (goducks.com photo).
Defenses are nearly always ahead of offenses after eight days of practice. Defense is read, react and be aggressive while offense requires timing and cohesion. So it was particularly encouraging that the running game looked stronger today. Rob Moseley of goducks.com reported Byron Marshall broke loose for a 17-yard touchdown and scampered for 23 on second and long. Smash added a 25-yard pass reception from Marcus Mariota, on a play where the quarterback had to scramble out of trouble and find a receiver on the run.
Helfrich added that Kani Benoit also had a couple of good runs, a very good sign in a unit that may need added depth after an apparent injury to Thomas Tyner, who left practice wearing a protective boot and on crutches.
In other highlights, Matt Wogan hit all five of his field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder at the end of practice. Moseley added that the highly-touted freshman kicker blasted one kickoff clean through the end zone, a skill that would have been handy last November when Marqise Lee was returning kicks for a kajillion yards in the USC game. Returning starter Alejandro Maldonado missed from 47 yards but made all his other tries.
In all Helfrich said the team ran 34 additional reps devoted specifically to special teams. He praised redshirt freshman Reggie Daniels. "He really stood out on special teams," Helfrich said. Daniels' name has come up a lot over the last year. He suited up for the Cal game last fall and coaches nearly pulled his redshirt, a player who's shown cover skills and great instincts all through his scout team season, spring drills, and the opening days of fall camp.
The 6-1, 200-lb. safety came to the Ducks from Hamilton High in Chandler, Arizona, the same school that produced Tyler Johnstone. Chandler is an Arizona powerhouse, with two state titles and two losses in the last three seasons. Daniels had 136 tackles and eight interceptions in his two years on the varsity.
His high school film reveals the up-and-coming defensive back to be a tenacious hitter with great cover skills. He has the seek-and-destroy nastiness of a good middle linebacker or a Navy Seal, the ability to turn and run with a receiver. He's devastating on the corner blitz, displays a great knack for finding and high pointing the football, reads the quarterback's eyes like John Boyett or Patrick Chung. He's very physical and ranges the entire field, making up for a lack of elite speed with intelligence and coachability.
Daniels will have an impact on special teams this year, and he'll be the first defensive back off the bench after veterans Troy Hill, Dior Mathis and Erick Dargan. Along with Joe Walker and DeForest Buckner, he's one of the second-unit guys who's showing the progress to make this a deep and productive defense.
In other news, Quick interviewed Colt Lyerla and his position coach Tom Osborne, who has sent five tight ends to the NFL. Lyerla says he wants the ball more in 2013, an opportunity to show what he can do. Indeed, recruiting writer Dirk Knudsen points out that in the Hillsboro High product's Duck career he has 11 touchdowns on just 32 catches, a td every three times he catches the football. That's impressive, especially considering prolific scoring machine De'Anthony Thomas averages a score every 8.5 times he touches the ball, 36 tds in his two years at UO.
Osborne told the reporter that while he recognizes Lyerla's exceptional talent he needs his starting tight end to demonstrate more consistency and discipline. Lyerla has to reduce assignment errors, Osborne said, and play hard all the time, eliminating missed blocks and lapses in concentration.
The 6-5, 250 athletic marvel has the potential to become the best tight end ever at Oregon, and there have been a lot of good ones. If he makes the necessary progress to become that guy, convincing the coaching staff he's ready for a bigger role, the Oregon offense simply has no limits, not that it had many before.