Spring practice season winds down this week at Oregon with Saturday's scrimmage at 2 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Network. The Ducks are the last of the Pac-12 teams to finish, along with rival Oregon State.
Oregon's spring game is formatted as closely to live action as possible in a scrimmage, with teams split down the middle by a draft.
Head coach Mark Helfrich joked to Tyson Alger of The Oregonian that the drafting of teams—one chosen by quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu and the other by cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and linebacker Tony Washington—was to be broadcast "on Pac-12 Network and ESPN 8."
Though last Friday's draft did not make it on ESPN 8: The Ocho, the complete results are available via GoDucks.com.
"It's not ones vs. ones [first-string offense vs. first-string defense]," Helfrich explained on Thursday's teleconference call, per Pac-12.com.
As one might expect, the team captained by the quarterback went with a more pass-friendly roster, while the defenders chose a ground-and-pound approach, which GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley noted on Twitter.
For an Oregon scrimmage to emulate the real thing, the Ducks must take the field in sharp uniforms. They'll do exactly that and pay tribute to the United States Armed Forces in the process. Nike and the official Oregon football Twitter account tweeted images of the spring game uniforms Thursday.
Helfrich's Second Spring
A year ago at this time, Helfrich was just getting his feet wet as Oregon's head coach. The 2013 slate of spring practices were his first since taking over the program from former colleague and current Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.
After an initial season of tremendous highs and some disappointment, Helfrich was asked to look back on the past year and the differences between 2013 and 2014 on Thursday's teleconference call.
"Any time you go through something more than once, you better be more efficient," he said.
Kelly set a high bar in his time as head coach, leading the Ducks to three straight conference championships from 2009 through 2011 and four consecutive BCS bowl appearances between 2009 and 2012.
The Ducks' BCS streak snapped last season, but as Helfrich noted, each new season is a chance to build toward a new goal—often with new personnel.
"There’s always adjustment. That’s kind of the fun part about this," he said. "Your roster changes so much from year to year in college football. The leadership, the vibe, and that’s where you kind of fall back on your culture."
Ducks Defense Making Spring Strides
Former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's retirement presented the Oregon defense with a major question mark in the 2014 offseason.
Thus far, the coaching staff seems pleased with the progress.
"We’ve had a great give and take as far as who’s had the upper hand not only overall, but intra-practice," Helfrich said Thursday.
New defensive coordinator Don Pellum told Sports Illustrated that building his unit starts with the finite details.
What’s been different is just a lot more time paying attention to overall details. That ranges from preparation to taking it on the field: practice plans, making sure guys are where they’re supposed to be. For instance, if it’s a nickel package and you split the linebackers, then you have the right linebackers down at pass rush and the other guys in pass coverage.
Helfrich Not Surprised by SEC Scheduling
Via SECDigitalNetwork.com, the Southeastern Conference released details of its future scheduling plan, which includes a mandate that all 14 of its members must play an opponent from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12.
However, the SEC is still committed to an eight-game conference schedule, deviating from other leagues with preferred access to the new College Football Playoff. The Pac-12 and Big 12 already play nine-game conference slates, while the Big Ten is moving to that format in 2016.
"I’m not surprised by [the SEC sticking with an eight-game conference schedule]," Helfrich said on Thursday's teleconference call. "Obviously, they do that for a reason."
Helfrich was not as harsh as some of his Pac-12 coaching peers, specifically Stanford head coach David Shaw. Shaw said on Thursday's teleconference call that SEC teams are "back[ing] down from playing your own conference."
Helfrich echoed a sentiment that UCLA head coach Jim Mora and Oregon State head coach Mike Riley expressed.
"If we’re going to call anything equal, and everybody pointing in the same direction as far a playoff, it seems like the qualifications for that playoff should be equal. We’re a long way from that," Helfrich said.
Oregon has lost just six games since 2010, four of which came against conference opponents. Coincidentally, the two nonconference losses were against SEC opponents: Auburn in the 2010 season's BCS championship game, and LSU in the 2011 season opener.
Brady White, a class of 2015 4-star quarterback from Hart High School in Santa Clarita, California, is scheduled to announce his verbal commitment at 6:30 p.m. ET today. Oregon is among the finalists, though CBSSports.com reporter Jeremy Fowler tweeted White could be headed to Pac-12 counterpart Arizona State.
Oregon made its offer to White earlier this week. White's recruitment became a top priority after the Ducks moved to the "outside looking in" on 5-star prospect Kyler Murray, Justin Hopkins of 247Sports.com reported.
Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com.
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