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April 26, 2013Spring Game Thoughts
As the Spring game approaches, there are some important things to consider for what the game really means.
The game is important to both fans and coaches, but for much different reasons.
Spring is a time of renewal; birth and re-birth. What is true in nature is also true on the gridiron. At the college level, with the ever-changing personnel and ever-changing landscape, Spring is our first glimpse at what the future holds for Oregon football.
Much like the young calf struggling to walk, the coaches tend to be more interested in those young players teetering around trying to find their way on the field.
Last year at this time, fans had little knowledge of what the 2012 football team would look like. With the departure of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, it was an unsure world. Having seen Bryan Bennett play, even garnering a start as a redshirt freshman, many fans made the logical conclusion that he was the "heir apparent" to Thomas.
Suddenly, like a flash of lightning, another young man burned his image into the consciousness of Duck fans with one run in the Spring game. Thus began the journey of a 2012 season that saw the Ducks literally inches from a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game.
This spring, the quarterback debate is not quite the same. Unless Jake Rodrigues or Jeff Lockie is John Elway reincarnated, Oregon coaches and fans are pretty certain who will be taking first team snaps come fall. That doesn't lessen the importance of the battle for number two, however, as Rodrigues or Lockie will be the first one off the bench should injury strike Mariota.
With a plethora of dings, bruises and nagging injuries, the Ducks have scrapped the "split-squad" format this year in favor of a controlled scrimmage of offense and defense in specific game like situations.
Expect the defense to give a lot of reps to some young guys on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield. The defensive line is, perhaps, the best and deepest defensive line in Oregon football history; and that is not hyperbole. The only question on defense will be exactly who replaces the departed senior linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. Their leadership and production will be difficult to replace.
Unlike the quarterback position last season where we knew who the two horses in the race were, the battle to replace Clay and Alonso has not even had much competition this Spring due to injuries to Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick.
But that does not mean that Duck fans won't get a glimpse of the future. Last year during the Spring Game, Tyson Coleman had a superb showing and that carried over into his role off the bench during the 2012 season. While we expect Coleman to eventually earn one of the vacated spots and Malone a likely candidate for the other spot, keep your eyes on the linebacker corps that is able to suit up Saturday; you might witness something unexpected and special.
The West coast is not really known as "football crazy" in the college football world. Despite the lackluster approach to football in comparison with the South or Texas, Oregon has bucked the trend and created a lot of buzz around the Spring game.
Over the past few seasons, the Spring Game attendance has grown incredibly; to the point where last years attendance was higher than many regular season home games prior to expansion.
While Oregon will never have the 80,000 plus fans in attendance that Alabama and other teams average, it is an incredible story that a team in a state where the outdoor activities are numerous, and a region of the nation where football is not the king of all activities, has been able to work their way to nearly 46,000 attendance for the Spring Game.
It is a testament to the manner in which the program has been built over the last four of five years. While many lament the lack of information during practices, it tends to generate a little more excitement for what we are about to see on the field.
Spring Game Tailgate
Starting in 2009, Duck Sports Authority has hosted a Spring Game Tailgate. The best thing about a tailgate for the Spring Game is that there is no tension about the upcoming game; it is simply a chance to get together with other members, share some food, drink and conversation.
Once again we are excited to bring this experience to our members. For this game, parking is "first come-first served" so we do not know exactly where our space will be. Nonetheless, I can assure you that we will be there very early (I usually get there about an hour before the gates open to ensure I have a good space) and ready to set up for some fun times.
We encourage any member who can make it to come down and enjoy the festivities.
With the NCAA articles last week, we did not get a chance to discuss the buzz. Since we last brought you a recruiting buzz, the Ducks have added their second commitment for the class of 2014.
Tyrell Crosby, an offensive lineman from Nevada, gave his commitment to the Ducks on April 15th adding the first offensive player to the class. Crosby long had the Ducks as a leader and decided to pull the trigger.
Duck Sports Authority would like to take the time to welcome Crosby to the Duck family.