Wherever Oregon football players went for spring break, it was recommended they find a gym.
“We wanted to make sure the guys understood that it was an opportunity to take a break and spend quality time with your family, but at the same time they needed to stay in great shape so when they come back it is full tilt,” UO coach Mario Cristobal said.
Following the first five spring practices, the Ducks got two weeks off before returning to the Moshofsky Center on Tuesday morning.
“Coach (Aaron) Feld gave them a comprehensive plan for them to execute while they were on vacation,” Cristobal said, referring to his strength and conditioning coordinator. “It looks like the majority of them did that. We let them know that we were going to test them (Tuesday). From a physical standpoint, this was not the first practice, it was the sixth practice and we picked up where we left off.”
The Ducks practiced for about two hours Tuesday including work focused around third-down and red-zone situations.
“There was a tremendous amount of energy, they came back ready to practice,” Cristobal said. “They went out with a purpose and showed they were eager to get back after it while understanding that we are going to make it more difficult so we can test ourselves.”
Cristobal said he challenged his offensive and defensive lines when they returned from the break.
“The demands on the guys in the trenches have to be much more,” he said. “We have got to do a better job getting our pads down and hands inside and get the second step in the ground and knock people back. We have to run the ball better and stop the run better.”
Cristobal and his staff used spring break to visit some other college programs, including Alabama and Georgia, while also welcoming a few NFL coaches to Oregon’s campus.
“It is important to see how the teams that are playing for the big trophy look and how they do things,” Cristobal said. “What the demands are and what the regimen is, the structure and standards. We are football junkies. I don’t feel comfortable telling a player to go lift and run and get better and then the coaches sit around and expect them to have a better season. Coaches have to get better as well and those are great opportunities to not only watch some things, but see where we are at and how far our program has progressed in the last year or so.
Oregon will be back at practice Thursday before heading to Hillsboro for a scrimmage Saturday that marks the midway point of spring drills. The Ducks will follow with two weeks of practice before the spring game at 2 p.m. April 20 at Autzen Stadium.
Junior Adam Stack, who was Oregon’s punter as a freshman and kicker last season, has been limited in the spring due to injury and Cristobal said he likely won’t do any kicking for another week or two. Zach Emerson, who was UO’s kickoff specialist last season, is working to expand his duties while freshman kicker Camden Lewis arrived for the start of spring term Monday.
Defensive lineman Gary Baker has been out with an ankle injury, but could increase his activity Thursday.
“It has been a slow and steady progression,” Cristobal said of Baker. “It is taking longer to heal than we expected.”
Senior offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton has not participated in spring drills due to an ankle injury suffered in Oregon’s 7-6 win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31.
“Throckmorton is ahead of schedule,” Cristobal said. “He will do some things with us, but he won’t do any live action. On those snow days when the town shut down, Throck hiked over here at 5 a.m. to get extra treatment. The guy is like a Navy Seal. He wants to practice and if he could put on a jersey with another name on it and go practice, he would. We have to slow him down.”
Senior cornerback Haki Woods, who had five tackles in 12 games last year, was given a sixth year of eligibility to return next season for the Ducks. Woods sat out a redshirt season at Indiana State in 2014 before playing two seasons at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. He originally committed to play at Arizona before joining the Ducks last season.