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Ducks will play nine true freshmen

EUGENE — After telling the majority of his true freshmen that they will redshirt this season, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich tried to soften the blow at the end of Saturday’s practice by having every player who ever sat out a redshirt season stand up.

“When they see Marcus Mariota redshirted and some of the other guys, that means I’m not so bad,” Helfrich said. “The sooner they realize that they are still a vital part of this team, the better. For some guys it takes a year and for some a year and a half, but we want it to take about 24 hours.”

Nine true freshmen got word this week that they will take the field during their first college season for No. 3 Oregon. On that list are defensive backs Khalil Oliver and Arrion Springs, defensive linemen Henry Mondeaux and Austin Maloata, wide receiver Charles Nelson, offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby, long snapper Tanner Carew, running back Royce Freeman and linebacker Justin Hollins.

Zac Schuller, a junior-college transfer at wide receiver, also will play right away.

“We’ve got a lot of good young players and those guys came in and competed really well,” Helfrich said.

Helfrich said linebacker Jimmie Swain is likely to redshirt but could play if needed. The same plan is in place for defensive lineman Jalen Jelks.

“A big indicator of hopefully where we are at depth-wise is that we are going to try and redshirt Jalen Jelks and he’s really good,” Helfrich said.

Eddie Heard, a sophomore junior-college transfer at linebacker, will redshirt this season along with most of the freshman class.

“That’s tough,” Helfrich said of the players finding out that they will redshirt. “A lot of those guys are the best athlete they’ve ever been around and not used to being anything other than the best.

“When you are not the first guy on the depth chart, that’s an ego blow or something psychologically that we try to address. We encourage those guys to buy into their role, whatever that is.”

Helfrich said he didn’t have a depth chart to release yet, but that could come today.

“There are a couple guys obviously that we think are pretty good, but at a ton of positions we are still competing,” he said.

Helfrich said redshirt freshman Ian Wheeler will “most likely be the guy at punter.” He said the kicker is still to be determined, but added that sophomore Matt Wogan “has done really well.”

Ragin is ready

Oregon got word Friday night that linebacker Johnny Ragin III will be eligible this season after transferring from California.

The sophomore from Wilsonville had his hardship waiver for immediate eligibility approved by the NCAA.

“That is great news,” Helfrich said. “He has had a great camp.”

Ragin III played in eight games last year for the Bears and had two tackles including one sack.

Scout team debuts

Saturday’s practice was the first for the scout team as Oregon began preparation for its season opener against South Dakota. Many of the freshmen who will redshirt played the role of the Coyotes on the scout team.

“Overall, it was really good,” Helfrich said. “I thought the scout-team work went faster than it normally does. It usually doesn’t take an entire practice, but a longer period of time for guys to figure out what to do, where to go, what we are asking guys to do in their new role. From that standpoint, I was very encouraged.”

Helfrich said this week will be spent focusing solely on South Dakota, not looking ahead to No. 8 Michigan State’s arrival on Sept. 6.

“It is all South Dakota,” he said. “We do stuff in the offseason for either new coordinators or different opponents we haven’t played. We do some stuff in preparation for spring ball and we kind of meld that together.

“It’s 100 percent South Dakota this week.”