Oregon Football & Track

by Frank Baldwin May 09, 2016

Will the Ducks maintain their stranglehold on the Pac-12 Championships next week? Oregon track & field rundown

By Ken Goe

Here are a few thoughts a week out from the main portion of the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships at the University of Washington. The multi-events competition is in progress as I type this. That will conclude today at Husky Track. Oregon's Mitch Modin was second in the decathlon after the first day. Modin closed the first day with a personal record record in the 400. USC's Amalie Iuel and Arizona's Pau Tonnesen had first-day leads in the competition at the Pac-12.

The Oregon Ducks have owned this meet for a long time. The UO men have won nine consecutive Pac-12 titles and 10 of the last 11. The Ducks have swept for seven consecutive seasons. I'll be interested to see the entries, because this year is a little different. The Ducks figure to be favored, but they have had some hiccups. For starters, it's strange to see a Pac-12 heptathlon in which Oregon is without scoring opportunities. Freshman Ashlee Moore was fourth last year, but she left the team in the winter and will compete next year for Arkansas. Oregon distance runner Edward Cheserek has not been himself this spring. I hear Cheserek had a minor calf problem that limited him in training early in the outdoor season. He is said to be healthy now. But as evident from Friday's Oregon Twilight, he isn't in peak form.

It shouldn't matter. The Ducks had some issues last year too. Sprinters Jenna Prandini and Ariana Washington missed the meet because of injury and/or illness.  Javelin thrower Haley Crouser had left the team in midseason. The men's team was missing hurdler Devon Allen (injury), hurdler Jonathan Cabral (injury) and mid-distance runner Johnny Gregorek (illness). But Oregon coach Robert Johnson had his athletes ready last year at UCLA when the meet went live. In a related development, Oregon junior sprinter/jumper Jasmine Todd, who scored 35 points in the 2015 Pac-12 Championships, participated in Senior Day ceremonies Friday during the Oregon Twilight. She clearly isn't coming back to Oregon in 2016-17. The Ducks have lots of elite women sprinters. But Todd, a member of Team USA at last summer's World Outdoor Championships, will be missed.



Oregon's new Defense


What’s not to like with the Brady Bunch?


Charles Fischer asked me to express my thoughts about the Oregon defense and its new coordinator after spring practice.  They’re almost all positive.

I’ll admit I was not a Brady Hoke fan when he was hired.  I wanted an “intellectual”, and I judged Brady Hoke to be a “tough-talking buffoon.”  Wrong.  Oh, the tough talking part was right — but in a good way.  And getting rid of my buffoon prejudice was helped by his significant weight loss.  But Hoke’s image more significantly and positively changed for me because of :

  1. Listening to him talk — at the Oregon Coaches Clinic. He definitely knows his stuff, and I was impressed by his presentation of a badly needed “simple but thorough” defensive system. His macho rhetoric also seemed refreshingly needed to rebuild the Ducks’ defense. “A team will reflect the personality of its coach.”

Gary Breedlove 

Team Mighty Oregon’s defense pouncing all over Team Webfoot’s offense

  1. Watching him (and his assistants) teach — at an Oregon practice.As I said in a previous article, “Rah-rah rhetoric in a bad teacher is worthless.” Coaches  Aiken, Pellum, and Neal are excellent teachers, but sometime last year  they lost their way.  I called it then “delusions of grandeur.”  The Duck defensive coaches seemed to think their players were better, smarter, and more thoroughly prepared than they actually were.  The Ducks way too often played confused and made game-changing mental errors.

Coaches should be judged by how closely their players play to the maximum of their potential.  And many physical “mismatches” should be accepted.  But mental mistakes must be unacceptable.  Longtime Arizona State Head Coach, Frank Kush, used to make any players who made mental errors, AND those players’ assistant coaches, make punitive runs up a very steep hill, by the practice field.

Brady Hoke appears to have that same distain for mental errors.  He preached it in his clinic talk, and he and his assistants definitely seem to be enthusiastically practicing it.  Playing fast is a good thing; but practicing too fast — not thoroughly and precisely learning all the very necessary “little things” — can lead to confused, slow-playing, unaggressive, critical-mistake-making football players.

It wasn’t the 3-4 front that caused Oregon to be a bad defensive football team.  It was HOW thecoaches taught the 3-4, and the many other supplemental defensive schemes.  It won’t be the 4-3 front that turns around the Oregon defense; it’ll be the way the coaches teach it.

So far, I’m very impressed with everything I’ve heard and seen

  1. Listening to Duck defensive players talk about how they’re being coached — on post-practice videos.They all seem to be honestly enthusiastic and optimistic about the defensive education they’re receiving. Beats the hell out of guarded skepticism.  Fortunately, the Duck defenders are all very well-cast for the responsibilities of their positions.

Gary Breedlove

Team Webfoot defense coming up big against Team Mighty Oregon’s receivers

Brady Hoke is making a genuine attempt to change the culture of the Oregon defensive players, and they know and appreciate that.

  1. Watching and analyzing the spring game. Yeah, the defense kept it simple, but you know what else was missing, besides a lot of different defensive “stuff”? Defensive MISTAKES and offensive touchdowns.  We all know how explosive the Duck offense can be, and I never heard significant criticism of the QBs, but a constant Duck offense only scored 5 TDs. One touchdown was because of an easily correctable  mental error by a Duck safety.  Two others were 50-50 jump balls [great catches by Dillon Mitchell] in the end zone.  In thoroughly going over the game tape, I didn’t see a significant defensive mental error.

Keeping it simple and, therefore, playing smart, fast, and aggressive can be a wonderful thing. To me, the best coached defensive team in college football is Michigan State [and now Ohio State, which copied the Michigan State system], and they do less “stuff” than any other teams.  But Michigan State and Ohio State almost never make  mental errors, and the opponents’ offenses almost always make mistakes that give the ball back.

Brady Hoke wants to be a lot more attack-oriented than those other guys.  He wants to make things happen, not just wait for them to happen.  Can he attack and still keep it mistake-free?

Hopefully, we’re gonna have a lot of fun this year watching Brady’s Bunch show us how defense should be played.  “Be the predator, not the prey.”



Future Great: Drew Hunter

By August Howell


Cliche as it may sound, Drew Hunter might be the most talented high school runner we’ve seen in many years. The Virginia native will attend UO next fall, where he will look to run into more record books on behalf of the Ducks. Hunter, currently a senior at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, has had one heck of a career so far. He was the 2015 FootLocker National Champion, and in the 2016 Track and Field season alone, Hunter has broken 4 minutes in the mile – twice. He also set a high school record for the 3000m.

Hunter’s parents are his coaches, but according to Runner’sWorld.com, his workouts are assigned by Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, an online coach who helped train Hunter’s mother. Coincidentally, Hunter’s times are approaching those of a certain runner his parents also once coached – arguably one of the greatest male high school runners ever - Alan Webb.

While Hunter remains humble in his approach to running, the people who know him closest offer high praise. For some perspective on Hunter’s accomplishments, we have to take a step backward. In the first race after Hunter won the 2015 Footlocker National Championship in Southern California with a blistering course time of 14.55, he ran a 7:59 3k to break Edward Cheserek’s previous high school record of 8:05.

Another fitting comparison is to Webb. For those who don’t remember, Webb was the first high schooler to break 4 minutes on an indoor track in 2001. Hunter ran 3:58 on the same track – the famous New York City Armory – in 2016. Only two weeks later, Hunter ran the mile again at the Millrose Games and set another personal record with a time of 3:57! It made sense for Hunter to attempt to break 4 minutes during that race. He had decided to not participate in the Wanamaker Mile, which would have put him up against serious world-class competition. That goes to show Hunter’s maturity.

Here he is, an unbelievable high school athlete, but his success isn’t going to his head. Instead of getting smoked in a mile, the race he chose to do “was a perfect race. Ford [Palmer] did a great job rabbiting,” Hunter said in a later interview with FloTrack.org. He added,”I wanted to race with guys who were my potential.” So he’s a smart runner, fast and knows the best time to race.

Interestingly enough, Webb predicted Hunter’s sub-4 performance. At the prestigious Penn Relays, he became the first runner to win the 3k and the mile since Matthew Centrowitz, Jr. - another gifted UO alumnus who currently runs under Alberto Salazar for the Nike Oregon Project. This year, Hunter became the first high schooler in history to win three separate events when he ran the mile anchor in 4-flat in the Distance Medley Relay to win by .001! Loudoun Valley was in 7th place when Hunter took the baton. For those who are unfamiliar with the distance relay, it is so mentally difficult to make a comeback if your team doesn’t appear to be in contention. To come back from nine seconds out of first place to win takes some serious dedication.

Along with Hunter’s personal accomplishments, it was the school’s first appearance in the event, and one that will undoubtedly be talked about for ages to come in his neck of the woods and beyond.  Taking into account these amazing times and performances, the question becomes, “Can he improve on his times, or will he simply maintain?” Hunter has proved he can race with some of the best in the nation. “Drew truly doesn’t get nervous or anxious,” said Joan Hunter, via Runner’s World. He possesses the skill to run with both professionals and collegiate athletes. When he trains with the elite field of runners here at Oregon, only time will tell what he can accomplish. But the future absolutely looks bright.


Frank Baldwin
Frank Baldwin


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