Oregon's first week of spring practices was all about changes.
First and foremost was the buzz a bigger lineup generated on Tuesday. GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley noted tight end Johnny Mundt. According to 247Sports.com, Mundt put on 20 pounds of muscle in the winter.
Mundt should be a breakout weapon in the Ducks' offense in 2014, and Sam Kamp has the potential to do likewise on the defensive side. Kamp, a defensive lineman, packed on 29 pounds, per 247Sports.com.
New defensive coordinator Don Pellum needs all the help he can get on the defensive line, the unit with the least depth on the Ducks roster. The line's subpar performances in late-season losses at Stanford and Arizona garnered criticism, of which Pellum is well aware.
"Obviously I’ve gotta grow some tougher skin over the summer. That’s a given," Pellum told the Statesman Journal Wednesday. “That’s part of the territory."
And the sooner Helfrich and his staff have Oregon up to football speed, the better.
Though Oregon opens 2014 with Football Championship Subdivision opponent South Dakota, a game that Sporting News ranks as one of its five Week 1 walkovers, the Ducks are on a steep learning curve. Reigning Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion Michigan State visits Autzen Stadium in Week 2 for what should be a top-10 clash.
Pellum told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian that a key to preparing the Ducks for next season in the coming weeks was establishing an attitude.
When we talk about swagger we’re not talking about being idiots and bad people, we’re talking about playing with confidence and a chip. In football you have to walk out with attitude. We’re trying to develop that and the kids are embracing it. They’re juiced.
One crucial part of establishing that swagger throughout the roster is developing it in new contributors. That includes newcomers, of which a few dove into their first week of practice.
The Ducks welcomed early enrolled recruits, all of whom could make an impact on the 2014 campaign, including offensive lineman Haniteli Lousi.
"It’s all a learning process," Lousi told GoDucks.com. "I’m glad I came in spring, so that I’ve got a lot more time to pick up the offense."
Lousi joins an offensive line heavy on experience but hungry to improve on its 2013 performance, as tackle Tyler Johnstone—nursing a torn ACL—told Aaron Fentress of Comcast Sportsnet.
We were kind of embarrassed last year. Not because of our lack of skill. We still handled teams really, really well. But when we go out there, we’re not intimidating. We don’t pass the eye test and we want to start passing the eye test. We want that initial intimidation.
As the Ducks continue with spring practices, which culminate in the May 3 spring game, establishing a more intimidating presence should be no problem. Oregon enters 2014 with 10 or more wins every season since 2009 and 11 or more wins in each campaign since 2010. This offseason is about rebuilding to a conference-championship level, one milestone which has alluded the program the last two years.
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