Fall camp is over and game preparation is about to begin.
In between comes a couple of decision days for Oregon’s coaching staff.
The Ducks had a scrimmage on Thursday to wrap up nearly three weeks of practice that has focused primarily on themselves. After taking today off, Oregon will practice today with attention turning to South Dakota in preparation for the season opener on Aug. 30.
“We will be in full scout team mode on Saturday,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “Roles will be defined at that point and we will start getting into game week.”
Before Saturday’s workout, Helfrich said he will have had “big-picture evaluation discussions as a staff and then with individuals.”
The depth chart will likely take form during that time and true freshmen will be told if they are likely to play or redshirt this season.
“Some guys will be frustrated, some upset and some happy because they want to redshirt,” Helfrich said. “What we need them to be is a great member of the team. Every single person in our program has a vital role, and we want them to play it to the best of their ability.”
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of many Ducks who gained a year of experience as a redshirt before taking the field.
“A lot of young guys who come in with the mentality they want to play have to go through a redshirt season, but they understand they still play a pivotal role playing on the scout team,” said Mariota. “Whatever game week it is, we have to have the best look possible and those guys provide that look.”
One freshman who will play is 5-foot-11, 229-pound running back Royce Freeman, who had two touchdowns in the scrimmage.
“Royce Freeman was really good,” Helfrich said. “There was one run that was very, very impressive and a couple others that were very impressive, and then a couple that you’d like to tackle better. He definitely stood out.”
Helfrich also had praise for freshmen defensive linemen Jalen Jelks and Austin Moloata as well as wide receiver Charles Nelson.
“It was a good live scrimmage, a good way to end camp,” Mariota said. “Both sides had some ups and downs. For the most part, a lot of young guys got live reps ,so it is good to start developing depth.”
Helfrich saw improvement from last week’s scrimmage.
“I liked our energy better today,” he said. “The offense definitely got off to a better start than the defensive side, but as the day went on the defense made plays to right the ship.”
The Ducks, ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, have begun a countdown toward the season.
“We’re pretty anxious to get going,” Mariota said. “I know guys are tired of hitting each other. This is the last day of fall camp, so now we can prepare for another opponent and we are excited about that.”
Mariota plans to spend the final week before his third season as the starter getting some of the newcomers ready for a game.
“Now we start to get some of the younger guys who will make impacts, bring them along during game week to be sure they know what they have to do to be prepared,” Mariota said.
Mariota said he was pleased with the effort during the past three weeks as Oregon enters the season once again with high expectations.
“We want to be able to come out of the conference this year, we haven’t been able to do that the last couple of years, and be part of the national playoff picture,” Mariota said. “That is our goal and we are really motivated.
“This was one of the best fall camps I have been part of since I got here. We’re excited and anxious to get out and play.”