Ducks Look To Bounce Back Against Colorado


Ducks Look To Bounce Back Against Colorado

Tip Off: 7PM

The Ducks play their fourth game without point guard Dominic Artis  tonight against the Buffs, and with two back-to-back losses last week on the road, this win could be key in preventing a breakthrough season from derailing.

"Every team has to bounce back at some point in time, and we've got to bounce back here -- and our guys will do that. ... We just need to play better," said Coach Altman Tuesday.

"They're all must-wins, heck, have you talked to our fans? We gotta win 'em all."

So far, they've been winning them all at home, on a 20-game streak at Matt Court.

If they want to continue to do that against Colorado, EJ Singler says it will come down to stopping them in transition.

“They're a really good scoring team. They really like to get up and down the court and score in transition, so we have to stop them in that and really make them play in the half court...that''ll get them out of a lot of things they like to do,” Singler said before Tuesday's practice.

Colorado is coming off an embarrassing loss against Utah, and according to their Coach Tad Boyle, his team needs to get back in the right mindset,

"Players have to understand what's at stake and what every game means.” "I don't think our guys understand that yet, and obviously they didn't understand it going into Utah."

Team Release
The 19th-ranked Oregon Ducks will host Colorado and Utah this week at Matthew Knight Arena for their first home games since beating Washington, 81-76, on Jan. 26. The Ducks have won 20 consecutive games at home, their third-longest home winning streak of all time.

Oregon (18-4, 7-2) currently sits in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Arizona; the Ducks won the only head-to-head matchup over the Wildcats, a 70-66 game on Jan. 10 at Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon is on its first two-game losing streak since the end of the 2010-11 season, however, after dropping both games last week in the Bay Area to Stanford and California. The Ducks averaged just 53 points per game on the trip, scoring 52 in their 24-point loss to Stanford and 54 in their four- point loss to California. The 106 combined points was their lowest two-game output of the season.

Colorado comes to Eugene fresh off a disappointing loss to Utah on Saturday. The Buffaloes are 14-7 overall and their 4-5 Pac-12 record places them in eighth. Oregon plays Utah Saturday; the Utes are 10-11 overall and 2-7 in conference play.

Damyean Dotson continues to lead the Ducks in scoring with 11.4 points per game, while Arsalan Kazemi leads Oregon in rebounding with 9.4 rebounds a game.

EJ Singler is just three wins from having the most wins in Oregon basketball history. Singler has won 79 games as a Duck.

Senior center Tony Woods enters the Colorado game with 78 career blocks. He is 3rd  all-time in blocked shots for the Ducks.

Colorado Release
Colorado sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie is leading the team with 14.7 points per game. His fellow teammate guard Askia Booker, is averaging 14.1.

CU’s Andre Roberson and Siena College's  O.D. Anosike are tied at 11.6 rebounds per game as the nation’s leaders in rebounding.

Roberson has 9 double-doubles this season, which has him tied for 1st in Pac-12 (10.8 ppg., 11.6 rpg.).

Jim Leavitt pleased with progress of Oregon's defense

Jim Leavitt pleased with progress of Oregon's defense

Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is as bubbly as ever. Even after three weeks this spring of coaching what was one of the worst defenses in the nation last season hasn't appeared to kill his buzz.

Maybe it's the soft drinks he consumes early in the morning. Or, maybe it's because he has taken on reclamation projects before and says he is pleased with what he's seen from the Ducks so far during this latest endeavor. According to Leavitt, UO's defense is getting better each day, grasping fundamentals and progressing. While he admits that is all coach speak, he also stated that at the end of the day, all spring ball is about is making daily progress. 

“It’s not all about winning the spring, to me, it’s about winning in the fall," he said following Friday's practice. "So we’re looking at the big picture on everything. I’m proud of the guys. I think they are working very, very hard.”

Oregon's spring game will be held at 11:30 a.m., April 29 at Autzen Stadium. 

Oregon ranked 128th in the nation in total defense last season while allowing 41.5 points per game. At Leavitt's previous job, he took over a Colorado team that had allowed 39 points per game the year before his arrival in 2015. Leavitt coached up that defense to the point where it allowed just 27.5 points per game in 2015 and then 21.7 last year. 

Now he's trying to do the same at Oregon, which is paying him $1.1 million per season to build a dominant defense. Leavitt said that moving form being the linebackers coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 to coaching at Colorado led him to enter this job with higher expectations. The move from the 49ers to Colorado involved steps to figure out what to use and what not to use at the college level.  Figuring that out may have slowed down the rebuilding process a tad at Colorado. Having gone through that before, he said, should lead to a smoother rebuild this time around.  

“We’ve pushed a lot more on them then I ever did at the last job,” Leavitt said. “I think they’ve handled it fairly well. They’ll drive me nuts at times, but that’s just because the expectations are very, very high. We want to knock that ceiling out.”

Should that happen next season, Leavitt would have to be considered a miracle worker.  It's going to take time for the defense to get to where Leavitt wants it to be. But he's not necessarily in a rush. 

“What’s really important is that you don’t’ want guys to be thinking about a scrimmage tomorrow or a spring game,” Leavitt said. “You want them thinking about today.”

Oregon Center Kavell Bigby-Williams granted permission to transfer

Oregon Center Kavell Bigby-Williams granted permission to transfer

Center Kavell Bigby-Williams has requested and been greanted his release from the team to transfer, according to an Oregon spokesman, and joins a long list of recent former Ducks to leave the program. 

Bigby-Williams came to Oregon last year as the top-rated junior college player in the nation but never lived up to that billing. The 6-foot-11 Bigby-Williams appeared in 37 games, played 9.8 minutes per game during a season that saw him average 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. 

Oregon has now seen the departure of seven of the Ducks top eight players from last season. 

Guard Dylan Ennis and forward Chris Boucher left as seniors. Junior forwards Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell, and sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey decided to enter the NBA Draft. Junior Casey Benson has elected to tranfer.

That leaves freshman Payton Pritchard as the only returning starter and regular member of the team's regular eight-man rotation.

Freshman Keith Smith played sparingly last season but saw time in the NCAA Tournament and even scored a basket in the team's Final Four loss to North Carolina. 



Oregon's running backs learning new tricks

Oregon's running backs learning new tricks

Running back drills during Oregon's spring practices have been a bit light on the running backs. 

Senior Royce Freeman, redshirt senior Kani Benoit, and redshirt junior Tony Brooks-James have been the only three going through drills under new running backs coach Donte Pimpleton in what appears to be a thin crew of familiar faces. But appearances can be deceiving. The Ducks remain very much stacked at the position regardless of the overall numbers. And the group is as close as ever.

“We’re like brothers,” Freeman said.

Oregon's running game should look quite familiar next season in new coach Willie Taggart's no-huddle offense, but there will be more of an emphasis in running straight ahead (downhill) and being physical, both along the offensive line and for ballcarriers, especially the 235-pound Freeman.

Taggart, who has reviewed all of last season's game film, said he believes Freeman must run behind his pads better. Meaning, he must be more physical and allow his size and pad level to go through defenders rather than provide tackling angles that benefit defenders. The same points were made about Freeman under former running backs coach Gary Campbell. But in the team's old system, the running game relied a bit more on finesse than this new system under co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal, who came to Oregon from power-running Alabama. 

Cristobal wants the offensive line to be more physical and has added some downhill running plays to Taggart's offensive scheme that the new run game coordinator wants to see Freeman exploit with his size and strength by delivering "body blows," similar to wearing down an opponent in boxing. 

“Come the fourth quarter, your yards per carry and your knockdowns you have, your trunk yardage plays and explosive plays should increase by a significant amount,” Cristobal said. "We want to make it so by the fourth quarter people don’t want to tackle Royce Freeman.”

Or, any other running back on the team for that matter. Cristobal said the entire group has shown toughness this spring. 

“You want to be around guys that enjoy collisions,” Cristobal said. “That search and seek opportunities to be physical and to be tough and to establish a mindset.”

Oregon's depth at running back will receive a jolt next fall. Junior Taj Griffin, who injured his knee late last season, could return at some point, or he could redshirt to save the year of eligibility. Either way, the Ducks will also welcome in freshmen running backs, C.J. Verdell and Darrian Felix. Cyrus Habibi-Likio could also play running back but is expected to start out on the defensive side of the ball. 

So, depth shouldn't be an issue. Then again, does a team really need more than Freeman, Benoit and Brooks-James to be successful? Not likely.

“You know you’re gong to get the same type of talent level [no matter who is] going in,” Benoit said. “There’s not going to be a drop off.”

Freeman said the group was reminiscing the other day about having been together for so long. Benoit will enter his fifth season at UO while Freeman and Brooks-James enter their fourth. The bond among the group, Freeman, said is strong. Benoit said that sense of brotherhood trumps any potential hard feelings about playing time. 

“We all feed off each other," Benoit said. "We all try to make each other better."

Pimpleton, Benoit said, has been working out well and in some ways is like Campbell in how he relates to the players.

“Really calm, but he gets his point across,” Benoit said. “We accept that well. He’s not a yelling coach, he’s not a berating coach. He tells you what you need to do, if not then you’ll come to the sideline. He’ll just waive you over.”

Pimpleton, who along with other assistant coaches who aren't coordinators hasn't been made available for interviews this spring, is putting a heavy emphasis on running backs learning to recognize defenses and fully understand the blocking schemes. 

"That helps us run a lot better knowing where our lanes are and where the holes are going to be," Benoit said. 

Oregon cornerbacks Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi vital to an improved defense

Oregon cornerbacks Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi vital to an improved defense

EUGENE  - Oregon senior cornerback Arrion Springs intercepted a pass thrown by sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert during the team's scrimmage Saturday at Jesuit High School and began to run it back. 

Alas, he said fatigue prevented him from taking the pick all the way to the end zone, plus he couldn't resist making contact with a good friend in pursuit - wide receiver Charles Nelson. 

"I should have cut it back but I was too tired," Springs said following Monday's practice. "Then I saw Charles so I had to take advantage of the opportunity to stiff-arm him."

By all accounts, Springs is taking advantage of opportunities this spring to finally reach his potential. The same could be said about junior cornerback Ugo Amadi. They'd better because each is staring the future of the position in the face, and that future could be now. 

Oregon freshman corner back Thomas Graham has received great reviews during spring practices from players and coaches. He indeed sounds like he is going to be an impact player. Yet and still, he alone can't change the fortunes of UO's much-maligned secondary and defense. 

For that to happen, the Ducks need Springs and Amadi, who have shown flashes of elite ability, to finally live up to the hype under new coach Willie Taggart.

For both, it's about being more consistent in everything they do on the field. Springs has gotten himself in trouble at times by not staying in the proper coverage and/or losing proper technique.

"Be more consistent, trust my technique a bit more and just make more plays on the ball," Springs said. 

Amadi has experienced similar setbacks. Consequently, both have been in and out of the starting lineup during their careers. 

Helping both improve, and the entire secondary for that matter, is the employment of two defensive backs coaches. Charles Clark handles the cornerbacks while Keith Heyward is coaching the safeties. It's a departure from having just one, John Neal, who coached the defensive backs for 14 seasons with mostly great success. 

Having two secondary coaches, Taggart said, should improve overall techniques and communication in the secondary. The first benefit is greater emphasis on technique by position. 

"Coach Clark is really good at focusing on, like, press techniques, so we've gotten a lot better," Springs said. "I feel like, individually, I've gotten a lot better than last year."

Communication problems in the past often led to some defensive backs simply not knowing what they were supposed to do in relationship to the rest of the secondary leading to blown coverages. 

Springs said defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is taking care of that problem. 

"He's putting a spotlight on guys so they can't just sit and hide anymore," Springs said. 

Amadi said communication has improved greatly because awareness has increased. 

"First off, you've just got know what you're doing before you can communicate," Amadi said. "When you know something, be confident in what you say."

Defensive players, Amadi said, know that they had better know their assignment if they want to play. 

"Now we have people dialed in who want to learn the playbook and want to get on the field," Amadi said. "Coach Taggart's thing is that if you don't know what you're doing we can't put you out there."

That brings us back to Graham. Physically, the four-star recruit and No. 12-rated cornerback in the nation coming out of high school, has been impressive, according to Taggart. Nevertheless, Graham still has a lot to learn, just like Springs and Amadi did as young players.

Both veteran players see the great potential in their younger teammate. 

"He's good," Springs said. "We've got to keep him calm at times. He gets a little ahead of himself...He's a lot better than I was my freshman year." 

Said Amadi: "He kind of reminds me of myself, coming in hot. You've just got to keep it rolling, be confident in yourself and keep making plays."

If he does, and Amadi and Springs finally reach their potential, the Ducks' cornerback situation could be the least of UO's problems on defense next season. 

Jordan Bell leaving Oregon, heading to NBA


Jordan Bell leaving Oregon, heading to NBA

Oregon junior forward Jordan Bell has continued the exodus from Oregon to the NBA today, following the steps of Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks by declaring for the NBA Draft.

More to come on this story from Aaron Fentress as well as our on-going off season coverage of the NBA Combine and the NBA Draft here at CSN. 

Spring notes: Taggart reflects on scrimmage, talks daily grades and coaches learning


Spring notes: Taggart reflects on scrimmage, talks daily grades and coaches learning

EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart and his team returned to work Monday two days after holding the first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at Jesuit High School in Portland. 

Review of video from that performance left Taggart both encouraged and still recognizing the long road ahead for a team that went 4-8 last season.

"We made improvement but I still feel like, 'oh Lord we still have a long ways to go,'" Taggart said.

And that's okay. Taggart didn't expect more than what he saw from his relatively young team that's in the process of learning new systems all the way around. 

"We don't expect to be where we want to be right now," Taggart said. "We still have seven more practices after today and then we have training camp to get ready for a game."

The scrimmage demonstrated the Ducks' talent levels but also their inadequacies that must be corrected.  

"We made some plays, we made some bad plays, we had some penalties," Taggart said. "We tackled some guys. We missed some tackles. Pretty much everything you would expect from a first scrimmage. You're going to have some ups and downs. But I thought, after watching it all, there's a lot of good things we can learn from and coach off of."

And that, in a nutshell, is what spring football is about. 

"We have a lot of work to do," Taggart said. 

Daily grades: Players are receiving daily grades from coaches on their performances and can review a daily depth chart that can prove to be both encouraging and disheartening. The end game is to illustrate cause and effect. They are daily reminders that every thing they do will be reflected in their grade and spot on the depth chart. 

"We always want our guys to know where they stand," Taggart said. "You ask these guys to go out and work hard every single day and to not give them something they can read and hang their hat on is not right. If we're gong to have a moving depth chart then I think it's only right that you grade them each and every day. That way guys know where they stand each and every day and know what they need to improve on."

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Travis Jonsen said quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo has given him As, Bs and Cs so far this spring.

"All across the board, really," Jonsen said. 

Players seem to like the daily feedback.

"That helps us out so next time we come out here we don't make the same mistakes," Jonsen said.

Backup QBs making plays: Taggart said he's been pleased with the playmaking abilities of Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister, both trying to hunt down returning starter, sophomore Justin Herbert.

"It's been pretty good to watch Braxton and then Travis make plays with the 2s," Taggart said. "I think whenever you can go out and make something happen with the backups, you've got something going. I shouldn't say it's easy, but it's a little easier to go out and do it with the starting guys. But when you can go out and make some plays with guys that aren't on the starting group, I think that says a lot about you."

Coaches still learning: Oregon's new coaches are learning daily along with the players they are coaching. 

Only two assistants, running backs coach Donte Pimpleton and special teams coordinator Raymond Woodie, came to UO with Taggart from South Florida. That means the rest of the staff is in their first spring with Taggart and thus must put on their student's caps just like the players. 

"So often we talk about the players, but as coaches as well," he said. "A lot of these guys weren't with me at USF so our coaches are learning what we're trying to do from a practice standpoint."

Royce Freeman shines in Oregon's scrimmage at Jesuit High School

Royce Freeman shines in Oregon's scrimmage at Jesuit High School

by Garrett Thornton

When Willie Taggart took over as coach of the Oregon football program, it was very apparent that there was a new sheriff in town. Saturday was just another example. 

The Oregon football program took to the road for a spring scrimmage at Portland’s Jesuit High School, something that hasn’t been done in recent history. 

Taggart said: “The football Gods looked out for us today, had a beautiful day here in Portland. Just driving up and seeing the line outside was great to see. Just solidified what I always thought about our fan base, they’re passionate about Oregon football.”

Taggart continued: “It’s part of our biggest fan base up here in Portland. And every Saturday home games we ask our fans to come down and support us and I think it’s only right here in the spring for us to be able to come up here and allow them to see their football team.”

The line at Jesuit Stadium started to form over two hours before the gates opened. Approximately 3,000 fans came out to support the Ducks. The energy and enthusiasm from the crowd started high and only intensified when the Ducks took the field.

As the first offense took the field against the first defense a great majority of the crowd were on their feet. Quarterback Justin Herbert bobbled the low snap from center Jake Hanson, rolled left, and threw the ball deep across the middle to sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell. Senior cornerback Arrion Springs made the first big play of the game as he jumped the route and intercepted the pass.

The defensive sideline erupted, led by defensive line coach Joe Salave'a, who was constantly cheering and encouraging the defense, along with defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.

As the scrimmage developed, the coaching staff would set up different scenarios to challenge the different offensive and defensive units. Some of the scenarios were 1st-and-goal from the five-yard line, 3rd-and-long from midfield, and 2nd-and-15 from the 25. 

Senior running back Royce Freeman was the best player on the field the whole day and ran with the first-team offense. He scored two touchdowns on the ground, and was a large factor in the passing game on screens and check downs. Before the scrimmage, Freeman said about the expectations of the team heading into the season: “If you don’t wanna win every game, then you shouldn’t be out there.” His play backed that up in Portland.

A match up that was entertaining all afternoon was between senior wide receiver Darren Carrington II and true freshman corner back Thomas Graham Jr.  Carrington got the best of Graham on a deep fly route down the right sideline for a touchdown, afterwards flexing to the audience and earning one of the largest cheers of the day.

Other observations from the scrimmage:

  • Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland looks to have the stranglehold on the starting tight end position. He and Herbert have great chemistry and connected on three red zone touchdowns.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Malik Lovette made a great impression with the second-team offense. He was a reliable target for quarterback Travis Jonsen.
  • Freshman defensive tackle Jordon Scott played with the first team defense and was a vocal leader on the field. Taggart praised Scott afterwards for his attitude and execution.
  • While Freeman was the best player on the field, the drop-off to backup running back Kani Benoit wasn’t significant. The Ducks have a ton of talent in the backfield, just like last season.

After the scrimmage was over, the fans started to funnel out as the team met at midfield. The fans that stuck around were in for a treat when the whole team and coaching staff walked to the fence and shook hands, signed autographs, and took pictures with every fan that stuck around.

There is a reason that Taggart, when talking about the Portland fans, referred to the Ducks as “their football team." This is a conscious effort to connect with fans, recruits, and boosters in-state.

The Ducks’ spring game is April 29 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

Play of Herbert, Jonsen and Burmeister too much for Wilson to overcome

Play of Herbert, Jonsen and Burmeister too much for Wilson to overcome

Oregon's quarterback competition became 25 percent lighter this morning when redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. informed new Ducks coach Willie Taggart Thursday night that he would seek a transfer. 

That meant more quarterback reps on Friday for sophomore Justin Herbert, redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister, who enrolled early enough to participate in spring drills. 

So where does Wilson's decision leave the Ducks entering the team's 2:30 p.m. scrimmage Saturday at Jesuit High School?

First and foremost, Wilson bailing after five spring practices is an indication of how much of an uphill battle he viewed beating out Herbert, who started seven games last season and looked like a future NFL Draft pick in the process. 

Something had to give. Oregon had four quarterbacks all within a year of eligibility of one another. That dynamic rarely ever holds for long because players play college football to play, not hold a clipboard, and there simply isn't much room for a backup quarterback to see the field unless the starter gets injured. 

Consequently, the odds of Herbert, Wilson, and Jonsen all remaining at Oregon heading into next fall appeared to be a long shot at best, and as it turns out, the trio didn't last together beyond the fifth practice of spring drills. 

Oregon is more than fine without Wilson and won't miss him much unless he goes on to win the Heisman Trophy elsewhere and Herbert dramatically regresses. 

What should be encouraging to UO fans is that Jonsen is back to being Jonsen, according to a team source. Fans should remember that Jonsen had a good spring session last year and entered the summer as a close No. 2 to senior starter Dakota Prukop, a transfer from Montana State. However, in the fall, Jonsen got banged up a bit, his performance went south and his confidence waned. He ended up falling all the way back to No. 4 behind Prukop, Herbert and Wilson, who ultimately redshirted. 

Had Jonsen maintained the high level of play he had displayed during spring, he might have been the next man up after Prukop faltered. Instead it was Herbert, who had a fantastic season after replacing Herbert as the starter in sixth game of the season and threw for 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. 

A new coaching staff means new beginnings for everyone on the roster, including the quarterbacks. Taggart has insisted that the starting job is up for grabs, regardless of what Herbert did last season. Jonsen has taken that to heart and is starting to regain the form that made him the No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation when he came to Oregon as a four-star recruit in 2015. 

According to a source, Jonsen is playing with a higher degree of confidence, which has allowed his talent to shine. While Herbert is the more polished passer of the two, Jonsen is the better runner. What makes the competition so fierce is that Herbert run wells and Jonsen certainly can sling it. 

Then there is Burmeister. Taggart said last week that the freshman recruit has been seen working on his own in the film room in order to learn the system and it's showing on the field. 

Sources say that Burmeister has performed very well and could be in the race when it's all said and done. 

Ideally, however, Herbert improves to the point where he is an undeniable superstar, and Brumeister redshirts in order to create two years of eligibility separation between him and Herbert. 

Having Herbert as a junior in 2018 and Brumeister as the redshirt freshman backup would be the perfect set up. 

But what of Jonsen? If he is beaten out by Herbert it would be best for him to transfer in search of a place to play, just like Wilson has done. 

These situations are never easy to navigate, not for the players or the coaches. But it's a good problem to have if you're Oregon when a quarterback as talented as Wilson bails because he sees that there is simply too much talent around him to feel comfortable he can win the job. 


Report: Oregon QB Terry Wilson to transfer

Report: Oregon QB Terry Wilson to transfer

Redshirt freshman Oregon quarterback Terry Wilson intends to transfer and has informed head coach Willie Taggart, a source has confirmed to CSNNW on Friday. The new was first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Wilson was rated a 3-star dual threat quarterback out of Del City, Oklahoma. He enrolled early at Oregon in time for spring practices a year ago.  

Oregon head coach Willie Taggart has repeatedly stated that the quarterback competition is open, but it is going to take a lot for anyone to beat out sophomore Justin Herbert, who appeared to be a budding superstar last season. 

Wilson was one of four young quarterbacks competing for UO's starting job against Herbert, redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister. 

Wilson was No. 2 on Taggart's fluid depth chart during the first week of spring practice but was bumped to third by Travis Jonsen in week two.