Oregon Football Practice Report: Jan. 5

By Rob Moseley
Editor, GoDucks.com

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Helmets only

The Oregon football team began the unusual process of preparing for a second bowl game Monday. But while the College Football Playoff National Championship game next week against Ohio State falls 11 days after the Rose Bowl, the pregame experience will be much different.

The Ducks got back to practice Monday at home in Eugene, inside the friendly confines of “The Mo.” They won’t travel to Texas for the title game until Friday, giving the team just two full days on site prior to kickoff, rather than the six in Los Angeles prior to Oregon’s Rose Bowl win over Florida State.

“It kind of feels like it’s more of a regular week,” left tackle Jake Fisher said. “It’s less time to really think about it, and more time to put in work and get the job done.”

The work put in Monday tilted toward the mental side. Without pads on, the Ducks did individual and position group drills, special teams work and walk-throughs of the new game plan. Oregon is working off a schedule prepared by the staff last summer, in the event the Ducks qualified for the title game, UO coach Mark Helfrich said.

“We’re really focused, dialed in,” linebacker Derrick Malone Jr. said. “I started studying (the Buckeyes) last night. So I had my fun during the weekend, talked with my family, they praised me up – but now it’s back to business.”

At practice, the Ducks wore their white game helmets, to test the fit prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship. Afterward, most players hustled off to classes, this being the first day of the university’s winter quarter.

Any player who has graduated did not have to enroll this week in order to be eligible to play next Monday. Center Hroniss Grasu, among the half-dozen or so players in that group, said he’s enjoyed being able to focus entirely on football since the end of fall term.

Grasu moved out of his apartment and drove his car home when the Ducks broke for the holidays. Thus, he’s living in a hotel this week, and driving a rental car. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, unlike the Ducks’ week in Los Angeles.

“Last week our emphasis was to treat it like a regular game as much as possible,” Grasu said, “but it’s kind of hard when you’re down at the Rose Bowl and you all have those great events that we have to go to. But while we’re down here it’s just normal.”

The Ducks will have a media day to attend as a team in Texas on Saturday, and Helfrich will participate in a press conference Sunday. There may be one or two public relations or community service events, but nothing on the scale of a typical bowl game.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota, considered a potential top prospect for this year’s NFL draft as a junior, said he will speak with advisers about his academic status for the winter. He has yet to enroll for classes, and can do so through Jan. 14, the day before the deadline for juniors to declare for the draft.

Thus, Mariota can wait to address those topics until after the title game. Like the rest of the team, his focus is on preparing to face the Buckeyes, in the comforts of home – Mariota still has a lease for an apartment in Eugene.

“It’s always nice to be in a family setting,” Mariota said. “For us it’s nice to be back in Eugene. It’s really just taking it like a normal week, a normal away game.”

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