Ducks delight fans with practice invite
EUGENE — Oregon gave its season-ticket holders and students an early look at what the general public can see on Saturday.
The Ducks practiced in front of about 500 invited guests on the practice fields at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex on Monday morning, giving most a first look at newcomers including quarterbacks Dakota Prukop and Terry Wilson and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.
“I loved it. It was fun to see some of the guys get out there and mix it up a bit,” season-ticket holder Mike Savage of Albany said. “It was nice to see Pharaoh Brown moving around. Dillon Mitchell is one guy I didn’t see play much and he looked good today. Really fast and quick.”
The three candidates to start at quarterback — Prukop, Wilson and Travis Jonsen — are mostly unknowns to the fans because none has played in a game at Oregon.
“I was pleasantly surprised with all three quarterbacks,” said Jim Morse, a season-ticket holder who drove from Portland. “I thought Terry Wilson was sharper than I thought he would have been.”
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said fans were waiting to get in nearly two hours before the 8:30 a.m. start.
“It was good to have that group out there,” he said. “It is always great to be around the fans, and hopefully we will have a great turnout Saturday.”
Oregon has one more practice today before wrapping up spring drills with the spring game at Autzen Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday. Helfrich said he hasn’t finalized the format for the game but hopes to have the traditional scrimmage with coaches drafting two teams.
“We have a couple different backup plans,” he said. “We will talk to the trainers and doctors and see where we are at. We have some guys on the bubble for limited or full contact, and limited guys won’t be out there.”
The list of key contributors who didn’t practice Monday included running back Taj Griffin; receivers Dwayne Stanford, Jalen Brown and Alex Ofodile; offensive lineman Cameron Hunt and safety Juwaan Williams. Punter Ian Wheeler limped out of practice with a trainer.
Brown, the senior tight end who missed all of last season because of a leg injury, spent part of practice on the sideline with the injured Ducks but also went through some drills. Helfrich said he wasn’t sure if Brown would play Saturday.
“He has looked good; he has been in and out,” Helfrich said. “The biggest thing is just confidence and he is getting there. He wouldn’t be out there if he wasn’t cleared from a medical perspective.”
Prukop said the players haven’t been told what the plan will be for the spring game.
“We are not worried about that just yet,” he said. “It’s something for the coaches to deal with.
“We focus on getting better from practice to practice. Nobody has talked about the spring game yet. ... One thing I do know is that me and Travis will be on different teams.”
The quarterbacks will likely be the center of attention in the spring game, and they got a chance Monday to get used to playing in front of a limited number of fans.
“That was cool,” Prukop said. “That definitely brought some energy to practice today. We enjoyed that.”
Mitchell impressed the crowd with a couple of long kickoff returns, and running back Royce Freeman also returned kicks. Taylor Alie, the quarterback who has been getting work at wide receiver this fall, had two touchdown catches in the red zone.
Helfrich said he’s pleased with Oregon’s progress through 13 practices.
“Today and Friday were good in terms of going back and forth,” he said. “There were some offensive periods and some defensive periods and individuals on both sides making plays. That is what you want at this time of year is fast football.
“We are still making mistakes in every phase, but for the most part 10 of 11 guys are playing fast. That is hard at this stage with so much newness on each side. I’m pleased with where that is going to end up.”