Mario Cristobal pleased with execution on both sides of the ball ahead of next week's spring game
Even though it never rains at Autzen Stadium, Mario Cristobal was soaking wet after overseeing Oregon’s 110-play live scrimmage Saturday.
The Ducks' second-year coach was upbeat after the closed-door session because both sides of the ball executed better than they did during the public scrimmage a week earlier in Portland.
Cristobal said Justin Herbert was “on point” and redshirt freshman Tyler Shough has established himself as the No. 2 quarterback ahead of true freshman Cale Millen and walk-on Bradley Yaffe.
“Tyler right now is head and shoulders above anybody,” Cristobal said of the competition behind Herbert. “Tyler has got a really good command of the offense. He’s playing well, the ball is out quick, it’s on the money. … I’m really impressed with Tyler Shough.”
Tight end Cam McCormick, who broke his leg in last year’s opener after winning the starting job in fall camp, is healthy and made his presence felt during the scrimmage.
“Cam is big and he’s physical and he’s got great hands,” Cristobal said. “He had a big catch today and took a full speed shot, which was great, popped right up.”
CJ Verdell and Travis Dye led Oregon’s rushing attack last season as freshmen and are expected to carry the bulk of the load again in 2019. With sophomore Darrian Felix out with the flu, Cyrus Habibi-Likio caught the coach’s eye.
“Cyrus really has had a heck of a spring and he ran hard through the tackles, had some big runs. So did Travis Dye,” Cristobal said. “We want him to be an every-down back, not just a short-yardage back.”
The competition at wide receiver has also been elevated with the addition of Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson and true freshmen Mycah Pittman and Josh Delgado. Cristobal said returning starters Johnny Johnson and Brenden Schooler have both improved since last season when Herbert leaned heavily on Dillon Mitchell.
New defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ scheme has been creating some problems for the experienced offensive line, which is perhaps a good sign for the Ducks.
“Great edge pressure by Kayvon Thibodeaux, La’Mar Winston, Adrian Jackson,” Cristobal said. “The guys really brought some heat.”
Cristobal said the defense took control of the scrimmage early but the offense eventually made some big plays, including a long touchdown catch by Delgado.
With 10 starters returning on offense, the battle to replace Mitchell’s production will be on display during the spring game next Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
“Certainly we’re not going to show everything we do, but we want to make sure our play-makers are on the field and put on a great show for our fans,” Cristobal said. “We want the entire country to see what our stadium is like on game day, and certainly we have a lot of really important guests in town and they need to see exactly what Autzen Stadium is like.”