The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
Decision day looms for Oregon coaches with final preseason scrimmage set for tomorrow

Oregon coaches face some hard decisions after tomorrow’s scrimmage.

Somebody has to be on the Scout Team. The squad limit for conference road games is 70.

All through fall camp, young players like Danny Mattingly, Johnny Mundt, Chris Seisay and Darren Carrington have challenged for playing time. They’ve made big plays in position drills, stood out in 11-on-11, racked up points for their squads on Competition Days.

Nice jugs: Josh Huff works on his hands and visual acuity with the Jugs Football Passing Machine, shown here in a workout before the 2012 Rose Bowl. Regardless of a player’s position on the depth chart, there are ways and tools for a determined player to keep improving in practice (Alex McDougall, Oregon Daily Emerald photo). The Jugs company is based in Tualatin, Oregon.



The Ducks have their last fall camp scrimmage on Thursday. Officials will be on hand, and the team will focus on specific situations.

It’s never a case of, this one play will earn a player in the starting lineup or a seat on the plane. But a show of consistency in live action under the pressure of game-like conditions can cement the impression made over three weeks of work in the August sweatbox that is two-a-day drills.

Matt Lubick has to set a rotation at receiver. Darlye Hawkins, B.J. Kelley, Chance Allen, Darren Carrington and Devon Allen all had big catches yesterday. Hawkins’ name has come up more than any other in coaches’ comments and Rob Moseley’s practice reports, and the big news there is that he hasn’t just been the 8-yard possession receiver; he’s getting open behind the defense and finishing big plays. Haven’t heard a lot from Keanon Lowe over fall drills, but he’s a veteran now, a steady, reliable receiver who caught 22 passes and 3 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Linebacker coach Don Pellum told Jason Quick of the Oregonian that his group have all shown flashes but little consistency in their three weeks of work. “No one has shown a complete game,’’ Pellum said. “And that’s what we are waiting on. We are waiting on complete consistency. We have seen a lot of flashes, but the consistency is what we don’t have right now.”

Freshman Danny Mattingly hits. That’s good–one thing you look for in young linebackers is whether they can maintain aggressiveness and bring it physically as they adjust to a new level. It shows he isn’t intimidated. He’s likely to make the plane. The Ducks need depth in the middle, and he has the range to contribute right away on special teams.

Rahim Cassell has been a frequent subject, and Pellum likes the way he sifts through blocking and steps into the hole despite being smaller at 6-0, 218. The Ducks “bullets over bowling balls” approach is never more prevalent than it is at linebacker: Rodney Hardrick (6-1, 243) and reserve Isaac Ava (5-10, 240) are the only LBs bigger than 225. Derrick Malone has learned the defense better and gets into the flow of the game more readily. He could emerge; he’s always had talent. Tyson Coleman appears to be the leader in the group, and Joe Walker has shown enough that he’ll get plenty of live snaps in September to show how he responds with the Jumbotron lit up and 60,000 screaming every down.

Boseko Lokombo is a given at one linebacker spot, a 3-year veteran with a penchant for the big play. The Ducks are counting on him to ramp up his production as an every-down player after contributing about 42 tackles a year coming off the bench and on special teams.

Mark Helfrich told the media yesterday that the defense “got out the brooms,” sweeping their third straight and final Competition Day of fall camp. That’s normal. Defense is always ahead, and you hope the offensive line has gelled enough and strung together enough positive reps that they can find a rhythm in the final week of camp, which turns from installation mode and skill work to actual game preparation. Friday is a wind-down day, one where the team in past years has done team-bonding stuff like the “O” games, belly-bumping in fat suits and linemen playing quarterback.

Beginning Saturday they’ll start installing the plain-vanilla game plan for Nicholls, and practice reps will be assigned chiefly to the ones and twos. Some players will find a red scout team jersey in their lockers, facing the realization that they’re beginning their first college season in anonymity after being the kings of their high school since they were old enough to shave.

It’s a day where some swallow hard and devote themselves to showing the coaches they made a mistake, and others begin the long sulk that condemns them to a season of frustration and a broken road.