The Latest on the Quarterback Competition and Other Standouts From Spring Football

The Ducks are seeing competition across the board as they combine veterans and talented youth to form this year's squad.
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The first day of padded practice saw the Ducks focus on third down situations along with technique and fundamentals--they haven't hit anyone since their Fiesta Bowl game against Iowa State in early January. 

The quarterback competition is a big story we're tracking in spring ball, and we're getting a bit of clarity of how snaps are being allocated.

"Anthony (Brown) has taken every rep with the one's so far. We've been moving around the guys that have been taking the reps with the two's," Mario Cristobal said. 

He added that next Saturday's scrimmage (April 17) is when we could see more separation for the quarterback battle moving forward.

"We'll really start looking at how do the reps have to go going forward? Right now we feel like this is the best way to make our team better."

The head coach also lauded Robby Ashford for his ability to balance time with the football team and baseball, which is in season, sometimes having to split days between the two sports. 

Another main takeaway from Tuesday's practice was the progress Cristobal is seeing along the offensive line--a group that returns all starters but is seeing development across the board.

"You've got a really good chunk of guys that are earning themselves into playing time and really ramping up the competition across the board," the head coach said. 

Specific players that have his attention include second-year players that arrived during the pandemic. Names like Dawson Jaramillio (RT), Jonathan Denis (OC), Marcus Harper (LG) and Jaylan Jeffers (working back from injury) all drew praise from Cristobal.

He also likes the efforts of Faaope Laloulu and Logan Sagapolu who've both lost significant weight since arriving in Eugene. Cristobal commented on Sagapolu's development, describing him as someone who "plays with massive power and can put a dent in the line of scrimmage."  

Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux said Tuesday that one of his goals this season is winning the Heisman. His head coach has no shortage of confidence in him, noting is excitement when combining his ability and Tim DeRuyter's past success with high-level edge players. 

"He's a high achiever. He sees himself as limitless-- we feel the same way. His body is continuing to grow--larger, stronger, more explosive, more flexible. His football IQ continues to increase," Cristobal said. 

Thibodeaux said Tuesday that DeRuyter has him playing standing up more as a traditional linebacker so far in spring. However Cristobal says part of that is due to the experimentation that comes with spring football. 

"I think what we're talking about is a certain package as opposed to what he's going to be doing full time. You will see KT doing what he does--what you've seen him do, and you'll see him do it often."

One area of concern for Oregon is running back--down to only two healthy scholarship players in starters CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. Cristobal said the team is getting creative in order to practice right now, but also to have a contingency plan should something like this happen during the season. 

"We have experimented with some things formationally, personnel-wise, put guys in that role that have probably done it in high school."

For what it's worth, Jaylon Redd played a lot of running back in high school. I could also see someone like a Mycah Pittman helping step into this role, as some described him as a running back in a receiver's body coming out of high school. 

A defense looking to return to its dominant identity is seeing players like Brandon Dorlus and Mase Funa emerge as leaders. (A quick side note: I'm going to continue banging the drum on a breakout season from Brandon Dorlus until I see otherwise. Keep your eye on him). 

Sticking on the defensive side, the Ducks are in need of a true CB 2 with the departure of Deommodore Lenoir. DJ James sounds like one player who is stepping up and fighting for that spot. 

"I can't say enough about DJ James and the way that he is pushing himself-the way he is performing," Cristobal said of the sophomore cornerback. 

One of the highlights from practice was a pick-six from safety Verone McKinley, who enters his fourth year as the leader of the secondary. 

Oregon is scheduled to practice again on Thursday. 

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