Fall football camp started Monday in Eugene, marking the earliest beginning to Ducks fall practices ever.
Thanks to the NCAA banning two-a-day contact workouts, the first fall practices under new head coach Willie Taggart started about a week or so earlier than normal.
“I really that believe that if we are going to be the winning football team that we would like for us to be, then it is going to take all of us. Fans and all,” Taggart said. “We have a passionate fan base that cares and that really makes a difference.
Oregon's practice fields had been shuttered from view since late in Chip Kelly's first season, but Taggart invited the fans back inside the party for the kickoff of fall camp. The move was appreciated by fans.
“To be able to see how enthusiastic the kids are, that is something I really missed for the past couple of years,” Oregon alum Ray Wissig said.
These are new days and U of O supporters hope the positive vibe Taggart is showing turns into more victories after crashing to the cellar of the Pac-12's North Division a season ago at 4 and 8.
“He doesn’t just give them awards when they like mess up,” 9-year-old Ducks fan Tanoa Scanlan said while visiting from Hawaii. “He actually tells them they messed up but in like a nice way.”
Mr. Nice Guy is making sure the players don't forget about last fall, however. There is a "lowlight" reel of their losses playing on a loop in the weight room, and that 70-point massacre by the Huskies doesn't get any prettier.
“We don’t want to forget those losses. I want to remind our guys constantly that we have got to work so those things don’t happen,” Taggart said. “Hopefully they hate seeing that so they work their tails off so we don’t let those things happen again.”
Taggart is also making sure those team bonds continue to mesh as the team is bunking up dorms with players outside of their own position group.
“It gives us a chance to get back together, and I know for coaches we get to go back to school. Lay in the dorms, sleep on the hard bed and partner up with each other,” he explained. “Training camp is when a team really comes together and it gives us an opportunity to put guys with guys they normally wouldn’t hang out with and get to know them a little better.”
Taggart thinks that the players “roughing it” will get the best out of his bunch.
“You hear so much about, ‘Oh, guys just come to Oregon for uniforms,’ and all that,” he said. “I told our guys before, there were a lot of people that came before us and worked their tail off to get us and get things that we have and we need to make sure we are putting in the work to get the program back to where it belongs.”
The Ducks are ready for triple-digit heat that is forecast to hit the Willamette Valley later this week. They also have the perk of an indoor facility.
That season opener is September 2 with Southern Utah before Nebraska rolls into Eugene a week later.
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