La’Mar Winston came to Oregon to play in games like this.
The Ducks’ starting outside linebacker grew up in Portland watching Oregon and Stanford battle for supremacy in the North Division.
After experiencing 11 wins and 14 losses during his first two seasons in the program, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound junior is eager to see if No. 20 Oregon is ready for the national spotlight again Saturday when No. 7 Stanford visits Autzen Stadium.
Winston discussed the Ducks’ Pac-12 opener after a recent practice:
Question: What is preparing for Stanford like this year?
Answer: Our focus has been physicality, it has always been physicality since coach (Mario) Cristobal has been instated as the head coach. This week it will be that. That’s really our main focus. I feel as a defense we’re pretty solid as a whole. So we just have to play to our keys and our leverages and our strengths and compete.
Question: How did you feel the team handled the nonconference schedule?
Answer: We showed that we can still make a lot of progress, which is good. We still have a lot of progress to go, yet we’re holding guys to 29 rushing yards. That’s huge. If we can improve on that then I’d love to. That’s what we’re trying to focus on is the room for growth. We won’t be perfect but we know that we haven’t played four quarters of our best football yet. We’re trying to put that together.
Question: How much has the play of Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks helped you?
Answer: Hollins, Jelks and Jordon Scott. I can’t ask for better guys to compete with out there. Come on, Jalen Jelks? Jordon Scott? These guys aren’t allowing people to get by them. It allows me a lot more freedom to be able to run around and use my energy to try to make some gang tackles.
Question: When you were growing up Oregon-Stanford was for the North Division before Washington came on a couple of years ago. What does this game mean to you?
Answer: It’s big growing up here. Oregon and Stanford always went back and forth. I’m just happy that I’m having a chance to compete and show other young Oregon fans and showcase our culture. I want to be able to make a difference in this game. Just the gravity of it, I guess I couldn’t put into words. You’ll see Saturday.
Question: Do you think about the implications with the division race?
Answer: For sure. I mean, it has its long-term and short-term effects. Really, it’s a statement game without a doubt for either one of us. We’re both going up, so we need to see who’s really dominant. I’m excited because I have a couple friends on the team, too. It will be fun to hit (high school teammate) Cam (Scarlett) for sure. I’m just excited that we get to compete at the highest level in college football.
Question: What’s the key to defending Bryce Love?
Answer: Play your assignment. That’s just the best way to put it. A guy that, he’s one of the best in the nation, and any little gap, any little cutback lane, he’s going to see it. So we’ve just got to play to our leverages, play to our assignments and do that every single play consistently. If we can do it consistently, we’ll see the outcome after that. But that’s what we’ve got to do, that’s what it’s all about — discipline.
Question: What was the response in the locker room when ESPN announced College GameDay was coming to town?
Answer: Everyone else is making it a big deal, but that’s because they’re fans. It’s a game for us. I don’t know what GameDay is. I still do the same routine at this facility. I hope that everyone enjoys the GameDay, I heard that’s a pretty memorable event. So I hope that all of our fans enjoy it because they have to have a great experience, too. I just want to win. I just want to compete, play, see how it goes. GameDay or not GameDay, we’ve still got to line up.
Question: Does the atmosphere at Autzen make a difference in the game?
Answer: Without a doubt. That changes momentum, it changes snap counts, it changes cadence, all that. We’re going to need every single person, especially because this is it. I wish I could explain it how excited I am and we are. This is it. We need everybody collectively. They could cause an offsides. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into that, especially on defense. Now I wouldn’t say on offense, because I know they need their silence. But for us, I love when it’s rowdy in the zoo because I’m down there getting rowdy.