Oregon Football: What to Look for as Ducks' Spring Practice Begins

Kay Jennings@KayJenningsPDXContributor IIIApril 1, 2013

Oregon Football: What to Look for as Ducks' Spring Practice Begins

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    The state of Oregon is enjoying an unusually warm and beautiful spring so far. But shouldn't it be wet and chilly when the Ducks start spring football practice? Will the coaches and players know how to handle 70-degree weather?

    They are, after all, Ducks.

    Not to worry. Nothing will slow down the AP preseason No. 2 Oregon Ducks. Besides, a large majority of this Oregon team is from California, Hawaii or Texas, and are no strangers to sunshine. Weather aside, what should you be on the lookout for as the Ducks convene for the first practice on April 2? Here are some of the more interesting storylines that we will be watching.

Backup Quarterback

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    The only thing more sure than eventual rain in Oregon in the springtime is that Marcus Mariota will be the Ducks' starting quarterback. There will be no drama—unlike in 2012—regarding who the starting QB will be.

    There is, however, plenty of drama over who will backup Mariota after the transfer of former No. 2 quarterback Bryan Bennett. Longtime Duck fans know that the No. 2 quarterback on the Oregon football team is an important position.

    Watch for Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie in early reports on who is getting the most reps in practice. Also pay attention to what the wide receivers might be saying about each guy, and read between the lines on quotes from offensive coordinator Scott Frost and head coach Mark Helfrich.

    Expect this quarterback battle to continue into fall camp, and perhaps even be enlivened by the arrival of 2013 recruit Damion Hobbs from Texas. But the spring game on April 27 (11:00 a.m. PDT; Pac-12 Network) should give you a feel for which of the two redshirt freshmen quarterbacks is in the lead.

Colt Lyerla

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    Will all-world tight end Colt Lyerla start the season in the coach's doghouse?
    No stranger to controversy, Lyerla missed the first six days of fall practice in 2012 "while addressing personal issues that UO coach Chip Kelly said needed to be rectified before he returned to the team," according to The Oregonian.
    And, right on schedule, the University of Oregon was forced to issue a statement on March 23 in light of tweeted comments by Lyerla regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. His tweets were offensive, insensitive and, well, wacko. They have since been deleted. I think Michael Chase speaks for all Duck fans with this tweet:
    Will Lyerla be at spring practice? How will he be welcomed by coaches and teammates? Will he be able to put this latest goof behind him? Lyerla wears No. 15.

Avery Patterson

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    Immediately after checking on Lyerla's presence, you will want to check out cornerback Avery Patterson's left knee. You will recall that Patterson, who took over the starting free safety position when John Boyett had season-ending surgery on both knees, tore his ACL in the California Golden Bears game in November.

    Then-sophomore Erick Dargan filled in nicely after Patterson went down, but it would be nice to see Patterson fully recovered for his senior year. Watch to see if Patterson is doing any running and cutting in practice. Patterson wears No. 21.

Byron Marshall

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    Expect to see projected starting running back sophomore Byron Marshall running with resolve during spring ball.

    If I were Marshall, I would be sick and tired of hearing how fabulous incoming freshman running back Thomas Tyner is. I would be determined that Tyner would not get my job. I would run my butt off in spring practice and try my hardest to cement my hold on the starting role going into fall camp.

    Will Marshall be the hardest working man on the Ducks' roster? Can he hold the starting running back position? Marshall wears No. 9.

Other RBs

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    While Marshall and superstar teammate De'Anthony Thomas are the only two scholarship running backs on the roster (until fall), it will be interesting to see how many reps Ayele Ford (No. 30) and Kenny Bassett (No. 31) get during spring.

    Ford and Bassett are not chopped liver, and it's somewhat surprising that they haven't been offered scholarships. Telling, perhaps, but still surprising.

Defensive Backs

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    The Ducks return every DB starter from last year (after Boyett's departure), so you have to feel good about the experienced veterans. What will be intriguing here is watching all of the redshirt freshmen DBs: the Amoako twins, Stephen and Eric; Newport, Oregon's Oshay Dunmore; and Reggie Daniels.

    Because 2014 will see the departure of seniors Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson at the minimum—it wouldn't shock me if junior Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has another fabulous year and leaves early for the NFL—this spring would be the time for the redshirt freshmen to show what they can do and develop into the role.

In or Out?

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    The Ducks' spring practice schedule has been released, but as of April 1 there is no formal announcement about which, if any, practices will be open to the public.

    But set your alarm clock because all practices will start at 9:00 a.m.


    Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow her here.