Coaches playing mad scientist with linemen
Mark Helfrich said Oregon will be “experimenting” with its personnel in the front seven during the first few weeks of fall camp as the Ducks switch to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke.
One of the likely changes is moving sophomore Canton Kaumatule from defensive end to the interior.
“I love it, I feel like more of a disrupter,” the 6-foot-7, 295-pounder said of working at nose guard. “Knocking people back is what I am comfortable doing, what I love to do, so I am excited. It is real simple compared to last year in terms of the 3-4 to 4-3. It is one guy, one gap and go.”
Kaumatule played primarily on the end during limited time on the field last year as a true freshman but said he played an inside spot during his prep career at Punahou High School in Honolulu.
“Even though we ran a 3-4 in high school, we did a lot of shifting and sometimes the linebacker would go to end and I would go inside,” he said. “To me I think of it as being closer to the quarterback and running back, so I love it.”
Kaumatule had a concussion at the start of last season that forced him to miss the first two games. He played in eight games while registering two tackles.
“That was really stressful for me, I shorthanded myself with injuries,” Kaumatule said. “I worked hard, but it happens. This year I am focused on being healthy and staying on the field for as long as I can.”
Oregon graduated first-round pick DeForest Buckner as well as Alex Balducci from the line.
“I learned a lot in the past year seeing pro players perfect their craft,” Kaumatule said. “To come in and play alongside them, I took a lot from them.”
Helfrich said Torrodney Prevot and Justin Hollins are among the linebackers likely to move to a rush end spot in the 4-3 system, and Henry Mondeaux could move from outside to the inside.
“That is the biggest areas we are experimenting with is those guys and after the next couple of weeks we will see where it all shakes out,” Helfrich said.
Mondeaux said he is comfortable at any spot on the line.
“I think I will play on the strongside end, but I am willing to be wherever I am needed,” he said. “They can try me inside if they need help.”
Nelson focuses on WR after defensive stint
After going back and forth between offense and defense, Charles Nelson has settled in once again at wide receiver.
The Oregon junior is listed only on offense and spent the summer working exclusively on that side of the ball.
“It was nice knowing I am going to be at one position now, I can focus solely on receiver and go from there instead of focusing on offense and defense,” Nelson said. “It has been great so far.”
Nelson said it was particularly helpful to have his position defined in the offseason when he worked to get comfortable with new quarterbacks Dakota Prukop, Terry Wilson and Travis Jonsen.
“Getting the timing down between receiver and quarterback has been great so far,” Nelson said after Oregon’s first practice Monday. “We were pretty much going every single day we could, we did a lot of work in the summer and that benefited the offense with receivers and quarterbacks. Today in practice it showed that we have grown as an offense. A lot of guys just want to get better, and we all came to an agreement we would be out there getting better as a whole.”
Nelson played wide receiver as a true freshman in 2014 and then moved to defensive back in the spring before being back at receiver to start last season. He switched to safety in the middle of the year before being back on offense in the spring. Nelson has 40 catches for 597 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons.
Allen finds new friends to work out with in Rio
Oregon strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe sent coach Mark Helfrich a picture of Devon Allen working out with the men’s volleyball team in Rio.
Radcliffe is at the Olympics with Allen, the Oregon wide receiver whose football season is being delayed while he competes in the 110-hurdles, as well as Oregon track athletes Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington.
Helfrich said the Ducks were prepared to open practice Monday without Radcliffe.
“We had a plan for him being gone and Devon being gone,” Helfrich said after the first workout. “Today was seamless. Not that we don’t miss him, but we are happy where he is at.”
Helfrich said some players were being counted on to fill the void without Radcliffe.
“It is another opportunity for players to take over some of the leadership roles that Rad does,” he said.