One day removed from releasing their week one depth chart, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti and the Oregon coaching staff have completely shifted their focus to their season opener against Nicholls State. With the worries of naming the starters now behind them, the Ducks look fully focused to executing their various roles and positions up to a standard that was set long before the conclusion of Fall Camp.
To open practice this afternoon, Aliotti touched on what he expects his defense to see from Nicholls State. This involved an inexperienced quarterback and an offense that has been notorious for showing a variety of formations throughout their games.
“They do a lot of formations and a lot of groups,” Aliotti said about the Nicholls State offense. “Because they had a new quarterback, they ran the ball with their quarterback a lot last year. So we’re anticipating that same kind of guy–kind of like what we do to a certain degree–but don’t know who that guy is yet because he didn’t play very much.”
He then went on to discuss choosing between Rodney Hardrick and Rahim Cassell for the all important starting middle linebacker position.
“Well he (Hardrick) played better in the spring and Fall Camp,” Aliotti said. “How big a separation, I don’t know. He had a better fall, a better production, but the way we play guys, the starter isn’t important.”
In regards to Mark Helfrich and his coaching debut, Aliotti seemed both confident and pleased to see him finally out on the field this upcoming weekend.
“I think he’ll do awesome,” Aliotti said. “I think it really helps that he’s had a good background and learned quite a bit from Chip (Kelly) and I’m sure from his other predecessors.”
One thing that Aliotti is going to miss however about Helfrich moving onto the head coaching position is being able to yell at him in the coaches box.
“I won’t be able to yell at him to milk the clock,” Aliotti said jokingly. “I’ll have to yell at Frost now, that will be the biggest difference. Probably will be a difference for Mark. The thing he’s got to do now going forward is: are we punting, what are we going to do on fourth down, are we faking something, so that’s a new role for him, but I think he’ll do great.”
To conclude, Aliotti discussed his expectations for the defense and what he is most excited about in regards to the season opener this weekend.
“How fast and how hard we play,” Aliotti said in reference to what he’s most excited to see from his defense. “I hope we can lead the country in effort. I know last year’s team ran to the ball, ran very well. If we know what we’re doing and we run to the ball, we finish plays, that’s the most important thing for me.”
“And then I’d have to say being aggressive,” Aliotti said. “We don’t tackle much in Fall Camp and even when we tackle our own guys, I don’t know if we tackle, so we’ll see how we tackle this Saturday.”
The season opener is a mere four days away for the Ducks and that will be the day when predictions fulfill expectations. Nothing matters until the first whistle blows and that will be the case for both the Ducks and Colonels this weekend.