The Oregon Ducks are holding their spring game tomorrow, Saturday, May 3, at Autzen Stadium, kicking off at 11 am. The game signals an end to spring ball and brings us to the precipice of another four months or so without any football games on the tube.
There are a coupla reasons to attend the spring game – I give you:
4. Position Battles
When Marcus Mariota decided to come back for his junior year, the Duck’s lucked out in a big way and do not have to deal with a quarterback competition for one more year.
That doesn’t mean, however, there aren’t other position battles occurring that should be watched, because every position impacts how the Ducks will do in 2014.
One of those battles is to determine who will be the starting wide receiver, opposite senior Keanon Lowe. With Bralon Addison out possibly for the whole 2014 season with an injury, the battle has become even more important.
The two contenders with experience are Chance Allen, who has the most experience of the candidates, but had only 5 receptions for 98 yards last year, and B.J Kelley, who caught one pass for 13 yards. Dwayne Stanford made an impact as a true freshmen in 2012, but was out with a knee injury all last year and is looking for his chance to prove he is back and better than ever. Darren Carrington, Devon Allen and Jalen Brown are all newcomers in the battle, but have a chance to make some moves.
There is a position battle of tight ends, where Johnny Mundt, Pharaoh Brown and Evan Baylis are fighting for the starting spot.
Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson have moved along, so both safety spots are up for grabs. Erick Dargan has the experience from his, years as a backup, which positions him to most likely grab the free safety position, but it will be a race between Issac Dixon, Reggie Daniels and Tyree Robinson for the other spot. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has one cornerback position set in stone, but Chris Seisay, Dior Mathis, Troy Hill and JUCO transfer Dominique Harrison will battle for the spot on the other side of the field.
What else to watch —
While the Ducks are set on who the starting quarterback will be, the backup QB position is still up for grabs. Last year Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie both played in the back up role, because neither one truly outshone the other during spring ball. This year redshirt freshman Damion Hobbs gets added to that mix and you have to wonder who will come out on top.
The spring game will give the fans a good chance to observe all these position battles in action. Every year there is at least one star that emerges during this game. Let’s see who impresses this time around.
3. For a Good Cause
The cost to attend the spring game is 3 cans of non-perishable food that will be donated to Food for Lane County. In 2013, during construction at Autzen Stadium, which limited seating, 36,588 people attended the game, which resulted in about 75,000 lbs of food donated to Food for Lane County, as well as $1,650 in monetary donations. On what is projecting to a nice, sunny day, I have no doubt attendance will surpass last year and Duck fans will help donate even more food and money to benefit the hungry in our area.
What’s better than being able to watch the Ducks play some football and help out a great cause, in one master stroke?
2. Team Mariasu or Team Twifo?
This year’s team captains are Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu, a.k.a Team Mariasu, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Tony Washington, a.k.a Team Twifo. The team captains drafted players from the team to create what are supposed to be two evenly-matched teams. Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost leads the coaches for Team Mariasu, while defensive coordinator Don Pellum takes that role for Team Twifo. [Ed. note: Refereed by Team Tiramisu]
It will be interesting to see which team comes out on top. Team Mariasu does have Marcus Mariota as one of its quarterbacks, but he will likely be in the game only for a short time. The same can be said for CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu for the other team. As I stated earlier in the article, there are position battles at both of these positions, so coaches will want to let the challengers play as much as they can, while reducing risk of injuries to all players.
1. 16 weeks
And the top reason for attending the game is — To get your last chance to watch the Ducks in action before the barren, football-less wasteland that is summer.
After the spring game, there will be 16 weeks before we get to see the Ducks take the field again.
The atmosphere at the spring game is fun and exciting and you can feel the football-induced happiness in the air. It’s a great chance to get together as a family and do something fun (tailgating) or be with other people who are as crazy about the Ducks as you are — who are probably tailgating.
For the last few years, Oregon has had one of the highest attendance rates at the spring game. Join me, won’t you?!
Main photo by Kevin Cline