Taggart wants the Ducks to play cleaner
EUGENE — Oregon’s fall camp is over.
At least that was the perspective of several veteran players before Thursday’s practice.
First-year coach Willie Taggart had a different take on the Ducks’ remaining practice schedule leading up to the Sept. 2 opener against Southern Utah at Autzen Stadium (5:15 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the end of training camp,” Taggart said. “We’re still getting after it and we’re still evaluating our guys to get ready for the season.”
With the elimination of two-a-day practices by the NCAA, fall camp started a week earlier than normal. The Ducks will scrimmage Sunday night at Autzen Stadium before taking advantage of the extra time by going through two weeks of game preparation.
Taggart wants to see fewer penalties after last week’s sloppy scrimmage. The Ducks ranked 126th last season in average penalties (8.2) and penalty yards (75.8) per game
“We’re not good enough as a football team to beat ourselves with penalties, so we’ve got to be very disciplined from that standpoint,” Taggart said. “Then less missed assignments. I think that’s really key for our guys as we get closer to the game is limit our missed assignments. We run the same plays over and over again, and there comes a time when we just can’t have those.
“You might get beat one-on-one, but you can’t not know what we’re doing.”
Oregon’s offensive coaches use headsets every day in practice. Co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo will be in the press box during Sunday’s scrimmage while co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal will be on the sideline with running backs coach Donte Pimpleton and wide receivers coach Michael Johnson.
Taggart, who will call the plays, plans to dictate the game-day conversation.
“Not a lot of guys need to be talking,” Taggart said. “Get some questions asked, but not many need to be talking. Guys need to speak when they’re supposed to speak. I don’t think there will be a lot of issues. We’ve worked through a lot of that already in the spring.”
ONE SNAP AWAY: Several notable players, including quarterback Justin Herbert, running back Royce Freeman, wide receiver Charles Nelson and linebacker Troy Dye, have established themselves as starters.
But the depth chart isn’t finalized at many positions, including backup quarterback. True freshman Braxton Burmeister and fifth-year senior Taylor Alie are still competing for the backup spot behind Herbert.
“What I need to see out of those guys is pretty much the same thing I need to see out of the starter — consistency, and guys that can execute our offense and guys that don’t make a lot of mental mistakes,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to take care of the football. The football is all of our dreams, goals and aspirations.
“There’s a lot of people depending on them to take care of that ball, so they need to do the right thing and take care of the football.”
FEELING THE GLOVE: Jacob Breeland has been wearing a protective glove on his injured hand throughout training camp.
The sophomore tight end is still scoring well with the judges.
“I’m really impressed with all our tight ends from spring until now,” Taggart said. “Breeland has been out there with a glove on his hand. He looks like he’s getting ready to fight in that McGregor-Mayweather fight.
“But he hasn’t dropped a ball, so we may let him use that all year long out there.”
Entering fall camp, tight end was an area of concern with the graduation of Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis. Taggart said he is confident Breeland, Cam McCormick, Ryan Bay and Matt Mariota can all perform in his offense this season, if called upon.
TALKING CHARLOTTESVILLE: Taggart said the entire team discussed the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, together to make sure the locker room was unified.
During a rally by white nationalists, one person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car sped into a group of counter-protesters.
“We didn’t want our guys just sitting around talking about it among themselves,” said Taggart, the first African-American head football coach in Oregon history. “We’re a team and we all want to talk about it to make sure we’re all on the same page and feeling good about it.”