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Ducks focus in on Vegas

EUGENE — Mario Cristobal doesn’t have any time for dream chasing.

“It’s kind of the same day, I’ve never gone to bed yet,” Cristobal said before Saturday morning’s practice, which started less than 24 hours after he was officially hired as Oregon’s new football coach. “I guess on Christmas Eve we’ll get a good night’s sleep.”

The Ducks — after dealing with the distraction of losing coach Willie Taggart to Florida State, lobbying for Cristobal to get the job and also taking final exams last week — are finally able to focus on their bowl opponent.

Oregon will play No. 25 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC).

“The whole focus of us right now is preparing our guys as best we can for this football game,” Cristobal said, “making sure that we are in great shape, making sure we practice what we have to practice so we can have our best possible performance.”

It was business as usual during Cristobal’s first practice as head coach. He worked with the offensive line while the other assistants focused on their position groups.

Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo will call plays during the bowl and in 2018. Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will likely join Taggart at Florida State after being passed over for Oregon’s head coaching position, but defensive line coach Joe Salave’a, safeties coach Keith Heyward and cornerbacks coach Charles Clark are expected to return.

“The way we did it, we kept a lot of our coaches, so we don’t have to worry about learning a new offense or anything like that. We just keep it going, and going with the guys that we have,” quarterback Justin Herbert said. “We’ve made a great bond, and I’m so thankful that (Arroyo will) be back next year. Working with him is really awesome. I just can’t wait to be back.”

Royce Freeman practiced with the first-team offense, but an official decision on whether the star running back will play in the bowl game or sit out to avoid the risk of injury ahead of the NFL draft has not been made.

“We have this week to figure that thing out,” Cristobal said. “We’ll certainly sit down and talk about it and come to a decision that’s best for him and the program.”

Boise State (10-3) won the Mountain West championship. The Broncos beat Oregon in the two previous meetings between the programs — 37-32 at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008, and 19-8 in Boise on Sept. 3, 2009.

Despite all of the chaos created by the coaching carousel, the Ducks (7-5) are favored by a touchdown.

“Our guys are excited about the challenge because they know how good they are and they know the history of the programs and how tough it is to play against them,” Cristobal said. “Our guys are certainly going to go into this thing with a chip on their shoulder.”

Several recruits, including four-star quarterback prospect Tyler Shough, attended Saturday’s practice. Oregon had to scramble to reschedule visits for this weekend after being selected for a Dec. 16 bowl game.

Wide receiver Warren Thompson of Seffner, Fla., became the fifth recruit to back out of a commitment to Oregon since Taggart’s departure, joining athletes Tre’Shaun Harrison and Braden Lenzy, wide receiver Miles Battle and cornerback Isaiah Bolden.

The early signing period begins Dec. 20.

“The movement hasn’t stopped, it’s only going to get stronger,” Cristobal said. “Our efforts in recruiting have been incredible and they’re not going to cease, they’re only going to get stronger.”

Getting a public endorsement from actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can’t hurt the recruiting efforts. Cristobal and Johnson played at Miami, where they won a national championship together with the Hurricanes.

“I’m still sore from those battles with that big son of a gun,” Cristobal said. “I’m going to tell him his sideline pass is reserved and to send me his workout program to help us a little bit. We’re a very tight family down there as players. …

“The experience I had (in college), I want the players here to experience that. Aside from getting married and having my kids, that’s the greatest time of my life. It’s a game-changer, it’s a life-changer, so I want that for them.”