Two weeks of fall camp are nearly in the books for the Oregon Ducks, and preparation for the 2014 season is heating up—quite literally.
August is the hottest month on average in Eugene, Oregon, per Weather.com. With practices in the heat of the summer day, including two-a-day sessions, the Oregon coaching staff has a serious point of emphasis.
"Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate," offensive coordinator Scott Frost implores of his team in GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley's interesting look at the Ducks' efforts to beat the heat during fall camp.
Praise for Mariota
As the mercury rises, so too does anticipation for the Ducks season.
Buzz for quarterback Marcus Mariota reached a fever pitch this week, as the redshirt junior earned a couple of endorsements from national media outlets.
An ESPN The Magazine poll of 95 players found the majority wanted to play for Mariota more than any other quarterback in the Football Bowl Subdivision, as tweeted by the official College GameDay account:
Mariota was also selected as quarterback of the USA Today Preseason All-America First Team, ahead of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, via Paul Myerberg of USA Today.
The bar is indeed set high for a quarterback who was among the nation's best each of the last two years. Improving upon two straight seasons of more than 30 passing touchdowns and 700 yards rushing is no easy feat.
But head coach Mark Helfrich said at last month's Pac-12 media days that if one trait defines Mariota, it's his commitment to improvement.
"He cares more about practice rep 13 in period 12 of 7-on-7 than anybody I've ever been around," Helfrich said. The coach added it's a boon to the entire Oregon roster, saying: "That carries over to every single guy in our program."
Familiar Faces in New Roles
The loss of Tyler Johnstone to an ACL tear Monday dealt the Ducks a major blow, but Steve Mims of The Register-Guard writes Johnstone remains upbeat in his efforts to help new starting tackle Andre Yruretagoyena acclimate.
And Yruretagoyena told Mims he appreciates his teammate's encouragement: "On the field, he's always encouraging me. It's a lot to take on, it's Marcus, and he's a great quarterback. There's pressure on me, but I'm excited, and Tyler helps me every day on the field, pushing me."
In addition to the change on the offensive line, Mariota is passing to an almost entirely new and youthful wide receiving corps—albeit one not bereft of Pac-12 championship-winning experience.
After all, Johnathan Loyd led the Ducks basketball team to the 2013 Pac-12 tournament championship.
The former point guard joined the Oregon football team in the spring once his basketball eligibility expired, and Loyd is developing into a potential difference maker on the football field.
Loyd explained his desire to pursue football to Anne M. Peterson of The Associated Press: "I'd been curious to see if I could play at this level. I love the University of Oregon, and I love to see the Ducks win. So if I can't do it in basketball anymore, I wanted to try another sport, to see if I could contribute."
Loyd's hardwood experience has plenty to offer the Ducks on the gridiron. He has proven championship mettle, speed to spare and, if the situation dictates, Loyd has demonstrated he's unafraid to stand toe-to-toe with bigger opponents.
Much bigger opponents.
In The Details
At media days, Helfrich said there was no single cure-all for remedying what ailed the Ducks in their two losses a season ago.
"For some guy, it's [that] he didn't hear the [play] call," he said. "For another guy, it's confidence. There are so many things and so many variables."
A single missed detail can have a domino effect, which nose tackle Alex Balducci told Moseley is something he's taking to heart in preparation for the season: "If I don’t do my job correctly, I’ve got offensive linemen on linebackers, and that screws up the whole defense. I’ve got to do that, and make plays behind the line of scrimmage as often as possible."
The past two as well as the upcoming weeks are the cornerstones for Oregon's 2014 season. If every little detail is ironed out by kickoff, the coming campaign should be one for the Ducks to remember.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.
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