Oregon Football Spring Game 2012 Review
Now that my Mariota-Mania has cooled in the 24 hours since the end of the spring game I can objectively look at it. I was impressed with how impressive almost everybody looked on the field. There were no mistakes or breakdowns and any good play was made was one that was truly an effort.
Quarterbacks: I don’t think I could have been more impressed with Marcus Mariota. I’ve seen his YouTube highlights a few times and one thing that stuck out to me was how effortless he made everything look. That observation carried over to the spring game. Mariota looked like a veteran running the offense. He was quick to get everyone to the line, even correcting players in their positions, and was poised in the pocket. He scrambled at times, but always kept his eyes downfield. When it was time for him to run, he turned on the jets. Mariota had a triple-option run where he faked the pitch (a safety probably would have tackled him, but the safety for some reason slowed down and didn’t touch Mariota) and pulled away from the secondary for an 80+ yard touchdown run. A common theme when seeing Mariota run is that defenders slowed down thinking they had an angle on Mariota, but he’s deceptively fast, and pulled away. He also showed some touch on his passes like when he hit Daryle Hawkins by arcing the ball over a linebacker and before the safety to put the light team up 28-7.
Bennett on the other hand could have had a better day. He looked flustered behind an offensive line that could have protected him better. My one criticism would be that he was too anxious to run. We’ve already seen a lot of what Bennett can do when he played against Colorado and Arizona State. The performance Saturday wasn’t as good as we know he can play. Unfortunately this was the first time we saw Mariota and it would have helped if Bryan Bennett had played better. However, I’m not out on Bennett, and Mariota’s performance lets us know that whichever quarterback gets picked is going to be really special.
I had the biggest opinion on the quarterback so I split it up. Every other position will be here. I really liked Ayele Forde’s production. I really liked him at last year’s spring game and I like him more after this year’s. He doesn’t have breakaway speed but he goes north-south in a hurry, keeps his balance, and gets extra yards. I have no problems with him getting 5 or more carries a game.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell were both impressive, each getting an interception. I feel really good about these two covering anybody in the conference in man-coverage, which Oregon will need when playing USC in November.
The linebackers on the whole looked good. Tyson Coleman had a pick-six and adds depth to Alonso, Lokombo, Clay.
At receiver there wasn’t a lot of vertical stretches but I like how the receivers have come together. Daryle Hawkins looks like a really good receiver and Rahsaan Vaughn had a few really good receptions. BJ Kelley and Tacoi Sumler looked really fast and they should be able to get a lot of separation. I’m optimistic about the receivers this year and hopefully fall practices are open to the public so Rob Moseley can update us on the receivers and their progress.
The offensive line for the light team was strong but since it was a split-squad it’s hard to judge them as units, and I’m not enough of an expert on line play to judge the linemen as individuals. On defense Arik Armstead is physically ready to start, but in terms of skill he’s a work in progress. With some ore coaching (he’s only had 14 real practices so far in college) and an offseason with the strength and conditioning staff he could be really scary come the fall.
Every play of significance I have already written about before so it doesn’t make sense to re-diagram them. On offense though it was interesting how they used receivers in the offense. In split back sets the second back was almost always a receiver who was the pitchman on the play or ran straight to the sideline on screen plays. With a lack of depth at running back and really fast receivers who will do well in space I imagine this being a big part of the offense next year.
Overall it was an absolute blast to go to the spring game in person. It was the first time in six years I’ve been able to go and enjoyed every moment of it. It helped that nobody made obvious mistakes and people generally executed well. I’m more confident headed in to the next season than I was before this game. The real question now about next year is depth on defense, which will make itself more apparent in fall practices.