Mario Cristobal gave his players homework for their shortened Christmas break.
“We are that teacher,” the Oregon football coach joked after the Ducks held their final practice of the year in Eugene on Saturday morning inside the Moshofsky Center. “You think you’re going to have time off, but they have a workout plan with them and a fundamentals and technique plan as well. Tips and reminders that go with them. We want them to spend time with their families and never get too far away from football. When we arrive in Pasadena, it is going to be hit the ground running. There are several events we are honored to take part in, but that also shrinks your time. What you don’t want is to have focus and concentration altered as you prepare for a great opponent.”
The sixth-ranked Ducks (11-2) will reunite in Southern California on Christmas evening to continue preparations for facing No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Oregon took a week off following its 37-15 win over Utah in the Pac-12 title game before returning to practice.
“I thought they used the one-week break to get their bodies back, but also to lift and run and stay in good physical condition,” Cristobal said. “This week we were smart, we spaced it out, but we also loaded them up with contact when they needed to have contact. We were working on both sides of the ball in the trenches which sometimes people shy away from this time of year. With a week off, we felt it was a enough time to get after it and at the same time, recover with a couple more days off before we meet back up.”
The Ducks also began to game plan for the Badgers.
“We got to practice a lot of different looks and scenarios,” Cristobal said. “Certainly, Wisconsin is a great football team and very different than a lot of teams we have played. There is some carryover, but with a lot of time to prepare, you have to make sure you dig deep in film and try to find anything and everything that they have done against teams like us to prepare properly.”
Wide receiver Mycah Pittman, who broke his arm in a 34-6 win over Arizona on Nov. 16, has been practicing with the team and may return to face Wisconsin.
“He practiced full-go, we put a red shirt on him so that he’s not tackled to the ground,” Cristobal said. “He would not be cleared unless he was really close so he are hoping for good news because he is certainly a guy that can help us.”
Redshirt freshman Chris Randazzo, who has not played all year due to injury, has also been practicing. Tight end Cam McCormick and linebacker Adrian Jackson, who both missed the season due to injuries, will not be able to return for the Rose Bowl.
“They are both on schedule to be here for the spring,” Cristobal said. “Cam is already running up to 15 miles per hour so he is getting close. We are proud of his progress and glad we took the course of action that we did. He is going to be ready to be a big-time player next year and we feel the same way about Adrian.”
Cristobal does not expect any players to skip the bowl game in order to prepare for a pro career.
“The guys that are on the plane are the guys that are going to play and as of now, we don’t have anybody whose not,” he said.
Cristobal said that junior defensive linemen Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu and cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham have requested evaluations from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee.
“We will provide that information for them to help them make the best decision for themselves and their future,” Cristobal said. “They have been great about it. As a team, we always have an agreement as the season starts to make sure that we will always discuss that after our responsibilities for the season are taken care of. Guys have held true to their word. That way we can provide them with the right stuff because this time of year gets noisy, everyone has a mock draft.”
Quarterback Robby Ashford was one of the final addition’s to Oregon’s signing class this week. He is ranked as the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by 247Sports.com and joined Jay Butterfield, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback according to 247, in UO’s 2020 class.
“He’s a special player,” Cristobal said of Ashford. “We feel that we have to up the competition in that room. Oregon has always been really good when that room has had the right kind of guys with the right mindset. He is that. He comes from a great family, he’s a great competitor, and he has elite athletic ability.”
Ashford is also one of the top high school baseball players in the country who could be selected in next year’s MLB Draft.
“We talked about him playing baseball here as well,” Cristobal said. “The good teams that I have been on always had dual-sport competitors as long as it doesn’t interfere with football. There is something about competition, whether on the track or in baseball that is healthy in terms of development. We encourage that if a guy can legitimately help that other sport and not compromise what he is doing with us.”
Oregon is seeking a new offensive coordinator, but Marcus Arroyo will serve that role in the Rose Bowl before leaving to become head coach at UNLV. Cristobal said that is the only departure he currently expects on the staff before next season.
“We have good coaches so every year we will face the same stuff,” Cristobal said. “People are going to want to come get a little bit of what you do, the secret sauce, so I think it is a compliment. … Our philosophy is always to help guys elevate their career from within the program. If it happens that they get an opportunity that might change their career path, trajectory or lifestyle, we are always on board to help a guy out. We just feel like this is the best place in the country.”