With College GameDay setting up camp tomorrow, the second-ranked Ducks finished up their third day of practice this week in routine and competitive fashion.
“It was a really good (practice),” head coach Mark Helfrich said. “On a day like this we’re doing some situational installations and it was really competitive. I am really happy with their effort.”
No. 12 UCLA will be responding from a 24-10 defeat at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal, a game in which an inexperienced offensive line gave up four sacks and only helped pave the way for 74 yards rushing. This bodes well for an Oregon defensive line that Hroniss Grasu calls the best defensive line in the country. On Saturday of last week, three true freshman were playing on the offensive line for the Bruins and Xavier Su’a-Filo was moved from right guard to left tackle, a situation that looks to continue this Saturday. Brett Hundley was phased last week from the omnipresent pressure from the Cardinal defense, but Helfrich was quick to note that UCLA still has talent in that category.
“When you watch their line, it’s not like your going that’s the true freshman,” Helfrich said. “I thought they have played really well and any time there are new guys in there, they are going to know their schematic limitations better than we are.”
Oregon’s defense is currently ranked 12th in the country in sacks with 21 as a team and running backs on average are only averaging 118.29 rushing yards per game.
“We’re not going to retool everything totally just because of one (offensive lineman),” Helfrich said.”We just have to do our deal and play and we like our defensive line and it is a huge challenge for them.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Oregon’s depth has the chance to create problems for a UCLA defense led by top NFL prospect and outside linebacker Anthony Barr. With De’Anthony Thomas set to play Saturday, the Ducks now have three running backs with added experience due to Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner getting more play time in his absence.
“It was just a matter of getting those guys playing and we have had a lot receivers stepping up and our tight ends are playing well,” Helfrich said. “Depth is a good problem to have.”
Now in the thick of their schedule, Oregon’s remaining opponents all have above -.500 records and their depth is something that they will take advantage of. A team that has been healthy across the board for the entire season, depth, as Helfrich noted, is a problem that the Ducks will use against UCLA this weekend and against the teams that follow.