Tuesday, August 5, 2008

University of Oregon Fall Camp: Day 1

Day one of the Oregon Ducks fall camp provided the first opportunity for both coaches and players to get acclimated with each other on the practice field before the regular season kicks off August 30th against Washington. As is customary with the first day of anything, there was obvious rust and the occasional mental lapse, but all in all it was a very encouraging day. The battle for the number one spot atop the quarterback depth chart continued where it left off in the spring, with Sophomores Nate Costa and Justin Roper (pictured left) essentially splitting the number of reps with the first team offense. While it appears that Costa maintains the slight edge over Roper so far on the depth chart, both quarterbacks performed equally well throughout the day.

“Nate (Costa) was sharper in drills,” said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. “Justin (Roper) was sharper in the 7-on-7’s.”

Costa at this point seems to be the most accurate of the two, displaying good touch and appropriate velocity on short and intermediate routes. Roper seemed to struggle a bit in this area, misfiring on a number of receiver screens, though he did exhibit impressive arm strength and accuracy on passes of 15 yards or more. Both quarterbacks showed nice mobility too. While neither will evoke visions of Dennis Dixon, Costa (who showed no ill affects from an ACL injury suffered last season) and Roper proved elusive when flushed out of the pocket. Most surprising was the mobility displayed by Roper, who during one particular sequence, escaped a blitzing linebacker and scrambled for a nice gain that would have garnered an easy first down.

Senior Jeremiah Johnson appears to be completely healthy as he led the running backs in a variety of drills today. After going down with a torn ACL against Washington State last year, Johnson showed no difficulty whatsoever running and cutting on his surgically repaired left knee. He also proved to be capable of outrunning defenders to the edge and showed great agility and burst in traffic. In addition to this, Johnson also had a number of impressive catches coming out the backfield.

“Jeremiah has that ability to scoot and accelerate that I like,” commented Bellotti of Johnson’s skill-set

The defensive backfield looked particularly opportunistic today, feasting on a few of the throwing errors made by the quarterbacks. Junior cornerback Walter Thurmond III had a couple of interceptions that likely would have gone for scores if he were playing in a game. Additionally, wide receivers looked solid with Seniors Jaison Williams and Terrance Scott along with Sophomore Jeff Maehl showing good hands and explosiveness after the catch. Scott particularly stood out with some difficult grabs near the sideline on poorly thrown balls. Finally, Junior cornerback Jairus Byrd and Sophomore wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad appear to be the front runners for the number one job at punt returner. Both were seen fielding punts today from Senior punter Josh Syria as UO Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jim Radcliffe, looked on.

Notes: Bellotti announced that freshman cornerback, Kenjon Barner has cleared NCAA entry requirements, allowing him to join the team for Monday afternoon’s newcomer practice.

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