Reid and I were on location for Oregon Football Media day and got to speak with Head Coach Mario Cristobal and a lot of players including Troy Franklin, Dont'e Thornton, Jay Butterfield and Keyon Ware-Hudson to name a few. Reid and I teamed up to give you our biggest takeaways from the day's action with fall camp set to kick off on Friday August 6.
The most competitive fall camp yet
"They deserve competition at every position," Cristobal said Tuesday. "Talent acquisition and player development has taken its course."
It's no secret Mario Cristobal has the recipe for success. A constant theme today was not settling or getting complacent. After winning back-to-back Pac-12 titles, you know this program is looking to take that next step.
Cristobal intends to help get his team there by putting them in tough situations and training them to handle adversity in fall camp. He mentioned only being able to study so much film, you've gotta be able to feel it by having those long days and going through the grind. They'll certainly feel that when the pads are popping and beads of sweat are dripping into their eyes in the hot summer sun.
Sean Dollars progressing
Cristobal said the freshman running back is "coming along really well."
This is definitely some positive news for Oregon after Dollars got hurt earlier this offseason. The running back position gets banged up fairly often, it's just something that comes with the job, and Dollars has looked very promising in the limited action we've seen so far.
Trey Benson rehab going well
One of the bigger backs on Oregon's roster, Cristobal updated his status:
"(He's) going to be very close to being full speed when we start up. He's looking great weighing 215-pounds. Just really rocked up, has had a great offseason."
Having a guy like Benson ready to go potentially in goal line situations will be a valuable asset. The Ducks have six talented scholarship running backs when fully healthy and having them available to deploy in a variety of situations will be huge in getting the offense to reach its full potential.
Jaylen Smith nearing return
Cristobal said the freshman defensive tackle is "coming around very well. He should be close to being a full go."
Next Wave of Leadership
The Ducks have lost a bunch of major leaders over the past few seasons, including Troy Dye, Deommodore Lenoir, Penei Sewell, and others. After an up-and-down season in 2020, Verone McKinley talked about the group building stronger bonds over this offseason and their belief that the best teams are “player led.” McKinley figures to have a leadership role, alongside other upperclassmen like Johnny Johnson III, Alex Forsyth, and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Coordinators Set to Make a Big Impact
Matavao One of Numerous Freshmen Stepping up on Big Stage
Oregon's 2021 recruiting class made a huge stamp on the win over Ohio State.
The Ducks obviously added new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter in the offseason. McKinley described DeRuyter’s past defenses as fast and smart, and identified that as a good fit with Oregon’s players and culture.
On the other side, Moorhead is technically entering year two, but there’s a feeling that he has much more wisdom to impart and schemes to implement then what we saw last season. Cristobal said Moorhead is excited to “put his entire package together” given the offensive tools he has and the time this offseason.
Deepest O-line ever?
It's no secret the talent Oregon has brought in has been on another level, particularly along the front line. After rotating six players throughout last season, Cristobal didn't set a cap on his plans for the offensive line group this year, saying, "as many as are ready to play."
True freshman Kingsley Suamataia told Ducks Digest that he's currently second behind George Moore. Fall camp is going to be another test of players being able to respond well to competition and elevate the standard, regardless of age.
Autzen Stadium Ready to Rock
Everyone was excited to be back in person for media day, but mostly players and coaches were eagerly anticipating the return of fans to Autzen this fall. Cristobal explained, “for them to be able to come out and see us is going to be an unbelievable moment for all of us.”
Johnny Johnson III said of the potential for fans to return, “that's probably the biggest thing we missed last year. There’s no stadium like Autzen, so I’m real excited.”
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