The Ducks are nearly at full strength as they begin preparing for the Redbox Bowl.
Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal finished off a potentially program-changing recruiting weekend by putting his team through its third bowl practice Sunday night in the Moshofsky Center ahead of the Dec. 31 matchup with Michigan State.
Starting left tackle Penei Sewell is healthy enough to play again for the first time since suffering a leg injury Oct. 13 during the 30-27 overtime win over Washington.
Backup left tackle Steven Johnson, another true freshman, is also ready to return to the rotation after suffering a concussion Nov. 10 at Utah.
Cristobal said starting defensive end Jalen Jelks is “getting closer and closer to playing” after missing the Civil War victory over Oregon State due to injury.
There is a chance senior inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu, who suffered a fractured leg Oct. 20 at Washington State, could play in the bowl.
Senior running back Tony Brooks-James, who was injured in the regular-season finale in Corvallis, will be a game-time decision.
“We’re taking it a little bit slower with him. He had a more significant injury,” Cristobal said of Brooks-James. “Nothing in any way, shape or form that is going to keep him from playing (professionally) in the future. Now in terms of the game itself, it will probably be pretty tight, it will be pretty close to whether he can play or not.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will likely have a couple of talented newcomers to throw at the Spartans.
D.J. Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound Miami transfer who began taking classes at Oregon in January, is eligible to play. The touted 2018 recruit can participate in the bowl while retaining his redshirt.
“Absolutely,” Cristobal said when asked if D.J. Johnson will be a part of the game plan. “We recruited him for a reason. He’s got the type of length, size, athleticism that you look for at that position. It’s kind of neat.”
Andrew Johnson, a true freshman outside linebacker, has also been practicing after sitting out the regular season to fully recover from a high school knee injury.
“We’re still a little bit cautious about letting him go full tilt,” Cristobal said of the 6-2, 222-pounder. “I guess I’ll have a better feel for him by the end of the week, but he has participated in half-line run drills, which is as close as you can get to the real stuff.”
Oregon will conduct its fourth practice Monday before an off day Tuesday. Cristobal and his staff will sign what is shaping up to be a historic recruiting class on Wednesday.
“We’ve been genuine and real and relentless in our efforts with everybody, guys that we think fit,” a smiling Cristobal said when asked about the 2019 class, which is ranked No. 5 nationally by the recruiting services. “We’ll see.”