Spring football game serves as showcase for Oregon backups

Junior running backs Ayele Forde and Kenny Bassett pose for a picture after the last day of week 2 preseason camp practices on Saturday. (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Junior running backs Ayele Forde and Kenny Bassett pose for a picture after the last day of week 2 preseason camp practices on Saturday. (Andrew Seng/Emerald)

Posted by Victor Flores on Wednesday, Apr. 23 at 3:09 pm.

Oregon’s spring football game is a chance for fans to see the Ducks play during the offseason, but it’s also a rare opportunity for some of Oregon’s players – the backups.

The Ducks, of course, have utilized their backups multiple times in recent seasons due to blowout wins, but many of their appearances don’t come until the fourth quarter. In the spring game, backups have a chance to star.

“The picked player of the game is always the third team tailback because that guy’s going to get a ton of reps,” head coach Mark Helfrich said after Wednesday’s practice.

Helfrich was asked about one backup running back Kenny Bassett, who’s played arguably the deepest position for Oregon during his three seasons.

“I think him and Ayele (Forde) would play a lot of minutes for a lot of teams,” Helfrich said.

While backups like Bassett will unlikely earn starting positions, they still have plenty of chances to impress their coaches. Injuries and off-field incidents always linger, so if second, third and fourth string players perform well during the spring game, they might be the first players called upon if the starters go down in the fall.

“Now, the lights are on. It’s your stage,” defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. “In the spring game, who’s going to get out there, do their responsibilities, but make plays?”

Playing time isn’t the only thing on the line for backups. Many of them aren’t on scholarship, so playing well in the spring could result in this momentous prize. Earning a scholarship also means they’re much more likely to earn playing time come fall.

“They’re excited for this time,” Helfrich said.

Noteworthy:

- The format for the spring game hasn’t been completely determined, but Helfrich hopes it will be played like a regular football game. In the past, the team has awarded scores to players for good plays, like sacks and turnovers on defense. But those scores will be eliminated if a game is played.

“Hopefully, knock on wood, we can play a game,” Helfrich said. “That’s the goal right now.”

- Helfrich and Pellum discussed the new rule that penalizes defenders for low hits on quarterbacks. Pellum said it won’t change much on his side of the ball because defenders are taught to hit around the chest to waist area and try to strip the ball, which is usually held around shoulder height. Helfrich said the rule is “common sense” and that low tackles don’t happen that often.

“I think they’re trying to remove a dirty play, which is a good thing,” Helfrich said.

- Running backs coach Gary Campbell said Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall have been getting some repetitions at wide receiver this spring.

“Both those guys have great hands, they run great routes,” Campbell said. “They’re not up to par with some of the receivers because they haven’t done a lot of it, but they’re capable.”

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