Ducks headed in 'right direction'

EUGENE — Oregon wrapped up the first week of drills with two practices Saturday, leaving coach Mark Helfrich to say the Ducks are "headed in the right direction" as they prepare for their season opener now only three weeks away.

"You're never where you want to be," Helfrich said in evaluating the progress of his team. "You're always striving for something else. "¦ You're never satisfied.

"I like where we're going, but we've got to go there."

After seven practices in six days, and usually a walk-through on days there was only one formal workout, the Ducks will stay away from the fields today and only hold meetings.

"We're a little bit run down, a little tired, but after (today's respite) we're going to be ready for the next week," offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone said.

Helfrich said the second week of workouts will include more installation for both the offense and defense, along with putting the kickers "in some pressure situations."

The first practice with officials on hand is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, with the Ducks slated to have officials on hand for three practices in preparation for the opener Aug. 31 against Nicholls State.

Oregon is scheduled to hold double practices in the coming two weeks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with single practices on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

What the players found in the first week was about what they expected: not much change from preseason camp with Helfrich replacing Chip Kelly. First and foremost, the pace is fast ... when it's not faster.

"It's no different. For the most part, it's the same old, same old," senior safety Brian Jackson said. "It's our system and that's what we do and what we're going to stick to."

"I think coach Helfrich believes in the fact we've built a culture here and it's been successful," quarterback Marcus Mariota added. "We're going to continue that and see where it takes us."

D linemen shine once again

Helfrich again singled out the defensive line as the group that overall performed the best on Saturday, continuing a theme established earlier in the week.

"Those guys are playing their tails off and they're physically very dominating to start with," Helfrich said. "They're playing great and I'm excited about them. They're just playing at a really high level."

Johnstone, a returning starter at offensive tackle, said that's all the better for his unit, too.

"The defensive line definitely outworked the offensive line (Saturday)," Johnstone said. "We were dragging a little bit, but the way they're pushing us is only going to help our team.

"They're beating us up a little bit, but that gets us motivated, gets us a little (angry) and makes us want to work harder the next practice. They're pushing us, and we want to push them back."

Mariota's No. 2 still a mystery

While there's no question about Mariota being the starting quarterback heading into this season, one of the key battles of fall camp will be deciding which quarterback is designated as No. 2, Jake Rodrigues or Jeff Lockie, both redshirt freshmen.

"They've had their moments," Helfrich said. "Both those guys have done some good things, both have made a couple of 'I need to make this throw to force it to win the job' type of mistakes," Helfrich said.

"They just need to play within the system, and when they do that they've been really good."

Asked about differences in their abilities, Helfrich said "they're very similar. Jake's got a little bit stronger arm, but Jeff has a very efficient motion and the ball gets there in about the same amount of time. They're both good athletes, they're both tough guys."

There's no rush on that decision, Helfrich said, adding that "we're going to put those guys in a bunch of situations to establish themselves" in future workouts.

Rumblings push Ducks indoors

Oregon moved its afternoon practice from the outdoor practice fields into the Moshofsky Center as a precaution after a severe weather warning was issued, with thunder heard in the distance signaling the possibility of lightning within 10 miles.

Helfrich acknowledged a feeling of being cramped on one field after the first six practices were on the new outdoor fields, but "I thought the guys did a great job" of adjusting to practicing inside.

Jackson said there wasn't much to that, since most practices were inside the Moshofsky Center last season and during spring drills, with the outdoor fields unavailable during construction of the new football facility.

Plus, Jackson added, compared to the new artificial turf outdoors, "being on turf (in the Moshofsky Center) that's been padded down feels better on your feet."


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