This is the quiet before the storm.
The Ducks took to the practice fields today to participate in the first of twenty-nine preseason practices leading up to the season opener against New Mexico on September 4th.
They are more than ready.
All 105 players reported and began the day watching film and having their first position meetings, which began around 8:00 am over in the Casanova Center.
Chip Kelly took questions from the media at 11:00 am, and offered his trademark vagueness when asked about specific position battles.
Kelly told reporters that Nate Costa and Darron Thomas both have improved and said that he will make a decision regarding the starter after the final fall scrimmage. As we’ve known for a while, Kelly reiterated that he will decide on one quarterback, but the other will need to be ready to go.
A solid group of starters return for the Ducks, nine on the offense and eight on the defense.
Asked about the mindset of the team right now, Kelly called them focused.
“The group is really focused and they understand what they have the ability to do,” he said. “Now we have to go out and do it.”
Oregon is arguably the fastest program in the nation. Kelly said that there’s significant speed at every position, and that “we base our recruiting, we base everything we do on speed.”
“We want bullets, not bowling balls,” Kelly said referring to the program’s speed.
Kelly called safety Eddie Pleasant possibly the fastest Duck on the squad, and expects his move from linebacker to safety to bring a lot of “T.J. Ward” to the position.
What was a cold, overcast morning in Eugene blossomed into a warm afternoon once practiced started. Players started making their way to the field around 1:45 pm, and by 2:15 pm practice was underway.
A steady mix of Metallica and Eminem blasted over the speakers, as Nate Costa was the first up in the team drills. Costa looked solid to begin with, but later in the day he threw three interceptions in a single drill. His arm looked strong for the most part, and aside from a few mistakes, he was relatively spot on with his accuracy.
Darron Thomas looked groomed and ready to lead the team. His lightning bolt release found many a wide receiver downfield. Both quarterbacks looked good scrambling, with Thomas making a nice would-be-touchdown getaway late in the day. Arguably, the only thing faster than the Ducks running back unit today was Thomas’ release. As soon as he pulls back, the ball is already seemingly in the air to the receiver.
Also worth noting was true freshman QB Bryan Bennett’s beautiful pass to fellow true freshman WR Josh Huff for what would’ve been a touchdown. Bennett got a few reps in, along with some coaching from Costa.
LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk took turns alternating returning kicks. All in all, everybody looked like they were glad to be out there.
A good crowd came to watch the first practice of the fall, which lasted three hours. The Ducks will be back out again tomorrow, again open to the public.