Practice Report: Oregon football trains at high tempo with a positive spring outlook

In Oregon football’s second spring practice, tempo was fast, spirits were high and players looked eager to get going.

The Ducks were going in and out of drills at a quick pace at high intensity given that it is only the first week of spring practices. As head coach Willie Taggart alluded to in his press conference earlier this week, the players looked bigger and stronger as well.

“Just going out the first day I could definitely notice the tempo difference and how they were coaching us,” junior defensive lineman Jalen Jelks said. “I definitely noticed how they want us to improve and they want to kind of back us up and our improvement. That changed a lot for me.”

Defense was a problem for the Ducks last season as the team was ranked 126 out of 128 in the country. The team is adjusting by bringing in defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who coached most recently at Colorado.

“I’ll have to wait and see how it goes,” Leavitt said. “Are we a pressure group? Do we drop? We kind of do it all. We’ll do whatever I dictate guys and what they can do. We’re going to wait and see.

“Everything is good, we’re playing badminton out there right now, you’ve just got shorts on. There’s no pads so you try not to evaluate too much right now.”

Leavitt’s defense is expected to switch back to a 3-4, a departure from last year’s 4-3 defense.

Oregon tight end Jacob Breeland blocks outside linebacker Jonah Moi (42). The Oregon Ducks hold their second open practice of the spring season in the Moshofsky Center in Eugene, Ore. on Friday April 7, 2017 (Aaron Nelson/Emerald)

“We aren’t all that right now, we’ve just had one day. You’ve got to have time,” said Leavitt. “Some guys played a little bit of 3-4, [but] most of our young guys, they haven’t really been anywhere. Plus, what we’re running is different from what they have done before. And I’ve got to do some things differently defensively from what guys can do and what guys can’t do.

Experience will be key for Oregon going into a new coaching staff, and Taggart said he plans to work with seniors, including Tyrell Crosby who was out for most of last season with a foot injury.

“It’s kind of new to all of us,” Crosby said. “It’s different from what we’ve been doing in the past but it really helped us all grow as a team.”

Things are different for all of the returning players, and though they are only two practices in, the team can see the modifications.

“The two biggest changes to me have been our enthusiasm in playing and people are coming out here and ready to play,” Jelks said. “One improvement I’ve noticed is coming out and being able to listen to your coach — and have somebody that wants to teach you something that you’ve never learned before. And has enthusiasm about coaching you.”

Jelks also said he has gained 10 pounds after the team spent much of its offseason in the weight room.

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Shawn Medow

Shawn Medow

Shawn is an associate sports editor and reporter for the Emerald covering football, men's basketball, women's basketball, acrobatics and tumbling, track and field/cross-country and softball. He also hosts several podcasts, including a soccer podcast, on the Emerald Podcast Network. You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShawnMedow.