Hoke brings fire to Ducks' defense
EUGENE — More times than not this spring, the green flag has been raised above the Oregon football practice fields to signify that the defense won the day.
Brady Hoke is pleased with the way his new players are competing against their often more celebrated offensive counterparts, but the first-year defensive coordinator understands the Ducks haven't conquered anything yet.
"As a group, they're starting to understand philosophically what we want to do, schematically what we want to do, how we want to pay attention in meetings and the little things that add up to the big things," Hoke said. "Competition is always important every day, but you're always teaching. We've got to keep demanding the expectations that we set for this defense."
After Oregon's 12th spring practice on Friday, Hoke said the installation of his 4-3 defense has been completed.
The Ducks will have two more practices next week to work out some of the kinks before the spring game on April 30.
Players are hoping fans won't recognize the defense, which finished the 2015 season ranked 116th in points allowed (37.5 ppg) and 117th in yards allowed (485.3 ypg), during the public showcase at Autzen Stadium.
"All the linebackers, all the D-linemen have a whole new mentality this year," sophomore defensive lineman Canton Kaumatule said. "There's no holding back this year. It's just attack gaps, attack your man, the mentality is pretty much just attack."
First-year offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and his offense, which is breaking in three new quarterbacks and trying to replace three starters on the offensive line, are still adjusting to the changes Hoke has made.
The offense's white flag has been flown on occasion, but there is more of a give and take between the two sides of the ball than last year.
"We're whoopin' the offense's butts, that's what that means," linebacker Paris Bostick said. "This defense is a vertical defense. There's more penetration. Last year's defense was more about reading your keys. This is get up the field, and let's play football."
Hoke said all of the position groups have shown improvement over the last four weeks, but it took the unit longer to grasp the concepts than he would have liked and there are still some alignment issues in the secondary.
"We've just got to keep improving. We're not going to put anything else in," Hoke said. "We need to keep playing faster and playing more aggressive."