Four days of fall camp are in the books, and it's time to take a look at where things stand thus far for the Oregon Ducks.
The first week has been without any major developments, which is typically a good thing at a time when injuries tend to cause the biggest headlines. It must also be noted that the team hasn't competed in a practice with full pads either.
But when it comes to football, any tidbits of information are more than welcome after a long offseason of NCAA drama.
One thing coaches get excited about this time of year is not only seeing what the new freshmen bring to the table, but getting a look at how established players have improved since spring practice. One of those players was DeForest Buckner, who according to Justin Hopkins of 247sports, is now up to 285 pounds.
Considering that he already stands at 6'7", you're looking at a potential superstar on defense. Having that extra beef should allow Buckner to combine his speed with a level of physicality that may have eluded him in 2012.
Matt Prehm of 247sports also noted that Colt Lyerla has dropped 10 pounds in hopes of increasing his speed. If you recall how fast Lyerla looked taking handoffs from Bryan Bennett against Arizona, an increase in speed from that version of the tight end has to be a scary prospect for opponents. We know how physical the former 5-star recruit can be, but when his speed borderlines on elite as well, it's fair to assume that he'll be a major part of the game plan each week.
As for the actual practices, it's difficult to glean too much information with practices no longer open to the public. However, Rob Moseley's blog at GoDucks.com does have some interesting notes from practice.
In looking over these reports, the thing that stands out most is the level of athleticism this team has compared with the Ducks of a decade ago. That's not to rip on former greats like wide receiver Samie Parker, who would certainly still have his starting spot today, but everywhere you look on the depth chart, there are serious athletes.
Eric Dungy continued to make positive impressions as the junior hopes to get a little more playing time this season. He has the intriguing freshmen class to fend off, but with a solid spring game, I wouldn't be surprised to see Dungy get more playing time throughout the season.
It also sounds as if Marcus Mariota hasn't missed a beat, which is another welcome sign for fans. Though it's probably a bit unsurprising too, given Mariota's leadership throughout spring and into summer workouts. He is the leader of this team, and fans should feel good to see him starting out camp in such a manner.
The questions about depth at running back also appear to have been tempered for the moment, as both Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall are having a strong showing thus far.
Jason Quick of The Oregonian noted that Scott Frost told him Marshall was the MVP of Tuesday's practice, also adding that his improved maturity and understanding of the offense was noticeable. This is noteworthy because one of the questions lingering after spring camp was if Byron Marshall had enough understanding of the offense to become the main starter.
On Wednesday, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said he told sophomore RB Byron Marshall that he was the MVP of Tuesday's practice.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) August 7, 2013
The strong start could be a direct result of the push from highly touted back Thomas Tyner, who has also turned heads in the first few days. Erik Skopil of eDuck has been covering the Ducks this week, and in an interview with running backs coach Gary Campbell, the veteran coach told him that Tyner had been picking up the offense quite well.
On @thomas_tyner:" His speed [stands out[. He's pick up things pretty well. He told me today that he's picking up the offense and I agree.."— Erik Skopil (@Erik_Skopil) August 7, 2013
Also of note in Skopil's feed is the impact the defensive line has already had in less than a week. Taylor Hart may quietly become one of the Ducks' best defensive linemen ever and the height of Armstead and Buckner makes the unit potentially one of the best in the country. Prehm noted after today's practice that Coach Helfrich once again praised the unit's effort.
That's all we've got thus far, but it sounds like practice is off to a great start for the defending Fiesta Bowl champions. More importantly, there is football being played, and for that, we can all rejoice.