(In following with the policies of the University of Oregon Athletic Department, this article will not discuss plays, formations, blitzes, tactics, injuries or anything of a detailed nature before the 2016 football season begins. We will revert back to the days of the old “Fish Reports” where the information was primarily football gossip, yet enjoyed by all. More recent versions of this type of report can be found on the GoDucks.com site, although we too, can have fun giving our thoughts and impressions of some members of the 2016 Football team. – Charles Fischer)
The sights and sounds of an Oregon football practice contain some of the new (the blaring noise/music of the recent years) and the old (the familiar screeching of the Ospreys in the background between song cuts) and both gave us that great old feel of football again. This article will not be the usual neat paragraphs of organized thoughts, but instead some rambling notes from the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, (Mike Morris) our Duck Buddy Gageac and from Charles “FishDuck” Fischer himself.
From FishDuck …
The receiver that surprised me the most was the one I assumed to be buried deep in the depth chart of WRs. Jalen Brown really stood out in the recent practice I attended; he did not have breakaway speed, huge height, or mega-hops, but this guy just gets open. He reminded me of a smaller version of Tony Hartley from 18 years back, who became a favorite for QBs. I regard him as the one to step in for Dwayne Stanford next year as the next “Mr. 3rd & 8“ who is a reliable target for moving the chains.
Boy it is great to see “the freak” Pharaoh Brown out on the field again without a brace. He makes it look easy with his blasting blocks at the LOS, yet he easily glides into the flat as a receiver and turns up-field to do stiff-arm battles with secondary defenders. He is so unique at 6’6″ and fast, and I expect the special play-packages devised for him in 2014 will return to the current playbook.
When Tristen Wallace was measured at 6’4″ and 235, with WR speed, I assumed he was the heir-apparent to Brown, until I saw him in person and had to agree with the GOC; he looks like a wide receiver, and does not have a tight end’s body yet. He catches the ball easily and has the body control of a wideout. He will be interesting to keep an eye on; will he become a present day LaCorey Collins, or a future Pharaoh Brown? Mike says “receiver,” but I wonder if that will be true in a year …
It is apparent that Dakota Prukop has the ability to throw the long ball, and has the green light from the coaching staff to do so. On one particular play, Prukop’s downfield spiral was a sight to behold as it arched over the defense and spun to Darren Carrington for a long gain. Darren had to wait a touch and then positioned his body to be the only one with an opportunity to leap for the catch. The savvy veteran teaching Oregon’s young DBs …
From Gageac …
(Pronounced “Gah – jack,” the name comes from this)
Brendan Schooler was making plays, and many of them consisted of little details that don’t show up in the stats, but are crucial to winning football games. It was surprising to see a true freshman catch a punt in a drill, yet make veteran defensive players miss him from his sidesteps and avoid tackles with his toughness. Heck, Schooler could be a running back!
A.J. Hotchkins seemed very fluid in his reading and reacting in the run game. He looked quicker than the competitors at his position, and seemed like a “waterbug” darting around and playing downhill between the tackles. It was very encouraging to see after the last few years of inside linebacker play.
From the Grizzled Ol’ Coach …
Troy Dye (6-4, 225, true freshman – he doesn’t seem as heavy as his listed weight). A very aggressive tackler as a linebacker, yet he has safety skills as far as open field tackling and in coverage. He is in position to be a surprise starter at outside linebacker, as he attended spring practice and now looks to be a “natural” at strongside linebacker (“SAM”) spot. At this practice he was all over the place with his speed and tenaciousness. He really looks like an OLB who could actually play safety, which is just what’s needed at this position.
Malik Lovette (5-11, 200, redshirt freshman). He keeps showing up on defense making plays such as tough open field tackles on very talented players. Malik has very fast feet and is not afraid to be very physical in his tackling. He is playing corner now on the second team, as he was a mid-season offensive convert last season but appears to have all the necessary skills and intangibles (definitely mentally and physically tough). Is this Kenjon Barner in reverse?
A.J. Hotchkins (5-11, 230, JC junior). He seems just right for the middle linebacker (“MIKE”) job, as he is very quick and athletic and yet big enough to take-on big backs and offensive linemen as a true run-stuffer.
Tristen Wallace (6-4, 235, true freshman). Many projected him to grow into a TE, but he looks pretty awesome as a slot receiver, as he definitely has the speed and hands for the position. Devon Allen’s absence might open the door for Tristen, although Jalen Brown and Alex Ofodile have looked very good in camp.
And we’ve saved the best for last. I’ve seen the Ducks’ next 1st-round draft pick QB, and he’s a true freshman. Prukop, Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson looked like I thought they would, as they are very talented, but there is still a lot of room to get better. Some excellent plays by them were mixed in with (probably too many) mistakes.
There is good-to-excellent potential among them, which is about what I expected. On the other hand, Justin Herbert, (6-6, 225, true freshman) was INCREDIBLE, especially considering his amount of practice time. But, EVEN IF HE WERE A VETERAN, I’d have thought he was the best of the Duck QBs.
FishDuck Addition: When Mike and I spoke about Herbert, we were trying to put a description on the type of ball that he threw as many of the labels we came up with were misleading. The reason we had such trouble is because Justin throws a ball with a ton of zip, yet somehow it is still a very catchable ball for receivers. While this sounds contradictory (and admittedly is in many ways), it matches what the players were saying in interviews. Passes from Herbert were easier to catch; even when thrown hard!
The dude is simply incredibly smooth and flawless, and he just DIDN’T MAKE ANY MISTAKES. On his one interception – which was the result of a receiver dropping the ball – Helfrich ran over to give him a jumping high-five. He has the best arm out there, and – for this one day at least, the most poise and decision-making ability of any of the QBs. And I haven’t even mentioned his running ability, which he strongly displayed in an early drill period.
When FishDuck asked me for a comparison, I said, “A bigger, much faster version of Jared Goff,” … and we all know what happened to him! Can/should he start or burn his redshirt year (he was running with the two’s for the entire practice)? A very similar guy from Hawaii, whose initials are M.M., had to redshirt.
Herbert’s future is in the hands of coaches far wiser than I. We know Josh Rosen did fine as a UCLA true freshman as did Goff for Cal. Is Herbert really better than Prukop? We’ll find out.
While all of this is fun – it just whets our appetite for more football. Thank goodness the season is just around the corner!
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Retired High School Coach, and College Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Pleasant Hill, Oregon
Top Photo of Justin Herbert from OregonLive Video