By Sam Finley, EDN
Let’s get it on the table. Oregon clearly missed Jeff Maehl and DJ Davis during the 40-27 loss against LSU. As the game played out, it seemed that the current batch of the Ducks’ receiving corps seemed a trifle out of synch with quarterback Darron Thomas. But they say they are trying to get a handle on the problems.
“We’ve been focused on cleaning up some of the stuff we did last week,” said junior wide receiver Justin Hoffman. “Obviously, we’re practicing harder so we’re ready for Nevada.”
But exactly why did things go as badly as they did early on? Through the first three quarters of play, there were several dropped passes and mistimed routes, resulting in Thomas throwing 23 incompletions.
“I saw a lot of mistakes last Saturday,” explained Oregon wide receivers coach Scott Frost. “We need to get better and more detailed. I think that’s kind of across the board on our entire team and we’re focusing on eliminating these mistakes so we don’t beat ourselves.”
One person who is expected to help eliminate the mistakes is Lavasier Tuinei. Now looked at as the leader of the wideouts, the 6’5, 216 pound senior did his part last weekend with seven receptions for 47 yards. Still, he believes he could’ve played better and along with the rest of the squad.
“We need to communicate more,” said Tuinei. “We also need to be more consistent.”
At the same time, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said it was good for some of the younger guys to get into the fire.
“They went in and competed in a real good environment to get tested,” said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. “They got their feet wet a little bit and it will be interesting to see how that transitions from game one to game two for them. But, aside from Will Murphy, most of the guys who played have been in games before like Josh Huff and Hoffman.”
Without question, the 5’11 Huff had seen plenty of action last season by catching three touchdowns. Hoffman had also seen some playing time last year, albeit a litte more sparingly. The 6’1, 206 pound Eugene native caught two passes for 22 yards in Dallas, and the 6’2 Murphy managed to catch one pass before the game was over. Tuinei believes it is crucial that these two guys step up, especially since the two receivers from 2010 are no longer around.
“Guys like Murphy and Hoffman are going to be big for us this year,” stated Tuinei. “We lost DJ and Jeff, and that leaves me as the lone starter from last season. But I thought Hoffman really stepped up and made some plays during the game.”
As for Hoffman, he gave himself an average grade against LSU, citing there is plenty of room for improvement.
“I did alright overall,” claimed Hoffman. “But I made a couple mental errors that can definitely be fixed for this game. They were small things that may not be noticeable to others, but to the others on our team. I just need to learn from the mistakes that I made and get better from them.”
They’ll get their first chance to redeem themselves on Saturday, when the Ducks take on the Nevada Wolf Pack at Autzen Stadium. Having put in a full week of practice, they say they’re ready to put a sloppy game behind them and will be ready for the home opener.
“I feel like we’ve been working together this week,” explained Tuinei. “We’ve been getting in the playbook, in the meeting room, and trying to help each other out.
“We just need to keep playing our game,” said Hoffman. “There aren’t any real large keys for us, but Nevada is a solid team and we look forward to playing them.”
Sam Finley has been the EDN sports editor since June 2011. E-mail any feedback to him at [email protected]