Practice Report: Veterans return in the secondary, but everyone faces the challenges of a new scheme

One season ago, Oregon’s pass defense ranked 10 in the Pac-12 and allowed opponents to complete close to 65 percent of their passes.

This season, though, the Ducks return veteran cornerbacks Arrion Springs, Tyree Robinson and Ugo Amadi as well as safeties Brenden Schooler, Khalil Oliver and Juwaan Williams who hope to improve last year’s abysmal numbers.

The secondary appears to be the strength of the defense this season but new coaches bring new challenges within their scheme.

Springs feel as though he is “a lot farther than expected” in regards to learning the new defensive — a switch back to a 3-4 after last years 4-3. However, Spring said it is easier to learn as a cornerback compared to a safety.

“[F]or the safeties I feel like it could be a lot different because they have different holes to fit in, different schemes and different gaps,” Springs said.

Head coach Willie Taggart brought in two secondary coaches — one for the safeties and one for the cornerbacks — which is a shift from the one secondary coach Oregon had last season.

Keith Heyward is the safety coach while Charles Clark is the cornerback’s coach.

“Coach Clark is really good at focusing on pressing and some of that stuff, so I feel like individually I’ve gotten a lot better than last year,” Springs said.

An additional coach gives the Ducks added eyes and more individual coaching. It also means Oregon players will be expected to learn more with more responsibilities. Despite the separation of the groups, quality communication between them is crucial.

“The communication is improving. Again, coach [Jim] Leavitt threw a lot at these guys — he threw the whole package in. We expect a lot of mistakes early,” Taggart said. “The defensive coaches threw it all out there and see what sticks and build off of it.”

In Oregon’s mini-scrimmage on Monday, quarterback Travis Jonsen took snaps with the first team. Justin Herbert took over the starting job for Oregon last season, but Taggart believes that every position, including quarterback, is open right now. Herbert took the first snaps in previous scrimmages, but on Monday it was Jonsen. Since redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. announced his decision to transfer on Friday, the competition is down to Jonsen, Herbert and freshman Braxton Burmeister.

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917


Jack Butler

Jack Butler

I am a sports reporter for the Daily Emerald. I started in spring 2016 and I cover football, men's basketball and softball. Spent the first ten years of my life in the Bay Area (San Rafael) and the last ten in Oregon (Bend). I am a UO-SOJC student.