Oregon football returned to Eugene for its first practice since Saturday’s scrimmage in Portland.
Head coach Mario Cristobal was happy with the overall performance in the scrimmage, but was not pleased with the penalties and mental mistakes.
One player that stood out was redshirt sophomore safety Brady Breeze.
“Brady has a knack for finding the football and had himself another interception,” Cristobal said. “He’s had one every single practice so far in the spring.”
Breeze had one interception last year in 11 games along with 23 tackles playing mostly on special teams. With Tyree Robinson graduated, Breeze will be battling sophomore Nick Pickett and redshirt senior Mattrell McGraw for playing time alongside senior Ugo Amadi.
Cristobal is not just excited about the players’ performances, but the impact of coaches as well. He called cornerbacks coach Donte Williams a “difference maker” for the program.
“To me, like the rest of our coaching staff, he’s a five-star guy,” Cristobal said. “He has tremendous ties out here on the West Coast. Our players have really gravitated toward him.”
Williams, who came over from Nebraska, had similar praise for Cristobal.
“Sometimes you talk to head coaches and it’s like talking to the president,” Williams said. “Talking to him was like talking to a friend you have known your whole life, when I had just met him.”
The cornerbacks position is thin right now depth-wise and experience-wise, after losing Arrion Springs to graduation and Amadi to a position switch.
Sophomore Thomas Graham Jr. is now the most experienced of the bunch. After easing into a starting role last season, Graham will be matching up against the opposing team’s number one receiver every game.
“You are going to be the leader, period, when you’ve played the most and you’ve made the most plays,” Williams said. “There is not going to be a falloff with [Graham] because he came here on a mission and he is going to continue on that mission.”
On the other side of the ball, Justin Herbert is looking to get his receivers more involved this season.
“Last year, I think [Schooler] was a guy that didn’t get the ball as much as he needed to,” Herbert said. “[Schooler, Dillon Mitchell and Johnny Johnson III] are athletic so they’ve been able to make plays regardless of the position they’ve been. All spring they’ve been productive guys.”
Schooler is improving at receiver after the switch from safety a year ago.
“It’s tough going from DB to receiver and not knowing what you’re doing.” Herbert said. “Just having time under his belt, learning the plays and just getting used to it has been super helpful to him.
Schooler cited Herbert’s accuracy and playmaking ability as huge benefits that made his position switch easier.
“All [Herbert] does is put it in the perfect spot,” Schooler said. “All I have to do is go up and catch it, so it’s nice.”
Starting center Jake Hanson, who has been out with injury, was in pads on Saturday but did not participate. Today was different as he participated in drills, mostly with the second team offense as he continues to recover.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @Mavpallack