Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Twelve times now this spring, Anthony Brown has woken up in the morning, gone to the bank and made a significant deposit.
The bank in question happens to be located on Oregon football’s practice fields, and the deposits Brown has been making are in the form of practice reps that will prove invaluable come fall. With three practices left this spring following the Ducks’ workout Tuesday, Brown has been banking all the first-team reps at quarterback, a change from last season when he was used with the ones situationally.
“(That) has a huge role in where I’m at, understanding the plays, understanding the concepts,” Brown said. “Repetition is a big thing. Mental reps and physical reps can’t compare – even though mental reps are actually really, really important. Repetition would be the biggest step from this year to last year.”
The value of repetition was illustrated starkly by Brown and the No. 1 offense in Tuesday’s practice, the first of four this week for the Ducks, capped by Saturday’s spring game.
Exactly one week earlier, UO coach Mario Cristobal scripted a “4-minute/2-minute” situation in practice. To review, in that scenario an offense has the ball with the lead, looking to kill the final 4 minutes of game clock; fail to do so, and another offensive group tries to run its 2-minute drill and come from behind. The Ducks ran it both last Tuesday and again this Tuesday, with dramatically different results.
Last week, Brown and the No. 1 offense were unable to get a first down, punting the ball away with 2:20 left in the scenario. That was enough time for Ty Thompson to lead the No. 2 offense to a “game-winning” field goal. This week, it was a different story.
On Tuesday, just like last week, the drill began with the offense backed up to its own end zone. Brown immediately got the offense some momentum with a completion to Johnny Johnson III. Some hard yards on the ground in the run game, an explosive play by CJ Verdell in a third-and-long situation and excellent clock management by Brown helped the offense get past midfield as the clock wound down.
Eventually they had to punt, but with just 4 seconds left on the clock. Punter Tom Snee pinned the No. 2 offense inside its 15-yard line, and a desperation comeback play was stopped almost immediately. One week after a poor showing in the drill, Brown and the No. 1 offense had a “win” in the 4-minute drill.
That’s exactly the kind of field general the Ducks are looking for, to operate an offense that returns its entire line along with veteran skill guys like Verdell, Johnson and Jaylon Redd.
“We only move as fast as I move,” Brown acknowledged. “The more efficient I am, the more efficient we’ll be as an offense.”
Other highlights: The No. 2 offense also got a chance in the 4-minute drill. Robby Ashford was behind center and moved the chains once with a completion to Troy Franklin. But JJ Greenfield and Bradyn Swinson provided back-to-back negative plays for the defense, and the offense had to punt. Only 1:23 remained on the clock, and though Brown drove the offense back across midfield, a long field-goal attempt was no good. …
Brown showed off his touch on a couple throws over the course of practice. In an early team period he lofted a ball over a defender into Johnson’s arms, and Brown had a similar throw to Devon Williams in 7-on-7. … Ashford and Dont’e Thornton executed the scramble drill to perfection on one rep, with Ashford leaving the pocket one direction, reversing field the other way and then finding Thornton downfield for a completion. … Both freshman tight ends, Terrance Ferguson and Moliki Matavao, had really athletic plays to haul in 50-50 balls Tuesday.
Other observations: With Dawson Jaramillo looking like the sixth man on the offensive line, one candidate to be the next guy in the rotation is Logan Sagapolu. He got a couple reps at guard with the first unit Tuesday, and coaches seemed really encouraged by how he held up. … Aaron Smith, who joined camp late to provide depth at running back, has shown a propensity for running over defenders a couple times the last two weeks. He definitely isn’t shy about contact. … The Ducks only have one more true “practice” this spring, on Thursday, before holding a “Fast Friday” style workout prior to Saturday’s Spring Game.