EUGENE — Raymond Woodie is doing all he can to prepare Blake Maimone and Adam Stack for their first college game.
Oregon will have a new punter, with Maimone and Stack vying for the spot held the past three seasons by Ian Wheeler.
“They are battling day-by-day, and it’s close,” Woodie, Oregon’s special teams coordinator, said Wednesday.
Maimone, a sophomore walk-on, spent the past two years behind Wheeler, while Stack arrived as a true freshman on scholarship in the spring to compete for the kicker, punter and kickoff specialist jobs.
Willie Taggart sends the new punters and veteran kicker Aidan Schneider through game scenarios during practice.
“Coach Taggart said, ‘Hey, let’s put pressure on them every day,’ ” Woodie said. “A field goal to win, a perfect punt, coverage-wise, it is a good thing. We have these situational deals in practice to see how they can handle the pressure.”
Woodie has a few factors he is judging in the punting competition.
“Hang time and then obviously being able to directional punt,” he said. “When you put things together scheme-wise, you want the punter to be able to fit the coverage of the guys running down to cover.”
Schneider is the incumbent at kicker after making 42-of-48 field goals in three seasons. Woodie said Schneider may exceed his career long of 47 yards.
“I’d say 50 and in, he’s automatic,” the coach added. “We tried 57 yards and he had the leg, but it went far left. He is a guy we are definitely going to count on. We have a lot of confidence in our offense so I’m sure we will be in range to call his number.”
Oregon has tried out a variety of punt returners in recent days including sophomore Brenden Schooler and true freshmen Demetri Burch, Darrian Felix, Darrian McNeal and Jaylon Redd.
“We will trim it down,” Woodie said. “Some of those guys will start getting limited reps and other guys will get more. Right now it is an organizational depth chart, and we want to give those young guys a chance to show what they can do. If they can do it, they will be on it, and if not we will move them to a different spot.”
Charles Nelson, who ranks second in school history with an average of 16.4 yards on 17 returns, is also in the mix after battling an injury early in fall camp.
“You always like guys that are experienced,” Woodie said. “Obviously, it is a new scheme, but those guys have to feel comfortable. You have a lot of people in the stands and live bullets coming at you so you just have to calm down. We want somebody just to be able to catch the ball.”
Freshman Forsyth gets time at center
A day after Taggart said the bulk of his 2017 recruiting class would have a chance to play this season instead of redshirting, Mario Cristobal said that includes offensive lineman Alex Forsyth.
The 6-foot-3, 297-
pound true freshman, who helped lead West Linn High to the 6A state championship last fall, has impressed Oregon’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach during fall camp.
“Everyone has a chance to play, and he’s one of them,” Cristobal said. “He’s really done a good job of coming in and understanding what we’re doing, how we do it, why we’re doing it that way. And he’s shown and certainly been a guy that has caught everybody’s eye, and he’s pushing for playing time.”
Forsyth, rated one of the nation’s top offensive tackle prospects by recruiting services, has been working at center. The Ducks return starter Jake Hanson but lost some depth with Zach Okun medically retiring from football.
“He plays with confidence, and the center has to have a presence about him when he comes to the line of scrimmage,” Cristobal said. “He’s got to be able to take command and see it holistically, not just kind of through a straw. You’ve got to see the whole thing.
“Every single freshman has to learn the game as a center. The center is headquarters, the traffic cop, I.D.’s stuff, points to stuff, helps us make line calls, gets us right when we’re not. And he’s got a great future.”