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Oregon Football

Keith Heyward Presser

October 12, 2020

With two safeties opting to prepare for the NFL draft, Oregon safeties coach Keith Heyward finds himself in a peculiar situation. The Ducks return veteran safety Nick Pickett and have a wealth of young talent throughout the rest of the secondary. Keith Heyward is excited by the potential of this year’s defense, including the addition of Boise State graduate transfer Jordan Happle, who Heyward says is square in the competition.

On where he sees Verone McKinley 

“Right now he's our starting free safety but. If need be at any point you know he's smart within our scheme he can play the nickel position. Jamal is currently there with our starting group. And like anything we're trying to build dependable depth, so having guys play certain positions and then moving them around.”

On conversations with Jevon Holland and Brady Breeze

“I fully support the decisions that they made.  I'm definitely gonna miss those guys--Jevon, Brady they played some tremendous ball for us made a lot of great plays. I wanted those guys to stay but had to support them on their dreams and I still.”

On position battles and grooming young players

“Nick Pickett and Steve (Stephens) out there battling it out right now. And in the boundary and there's Jamal (Hill), there's Verone (McKinley), who could play the nickel and there's Bennett who we’re grooming. At the end of the day, I feel confident in our coaching abilities and I feel confident in these guys and their work ethic and how they study and how they train.”

On challenges during pandemic and avoiding injuries

“What you see and you watch NFL, you know, you’re seeing  a lot of injuries. And the one thing is you have to do is you have to make sure that you're training the guys to get them ready to play game one. But at the same time you're not doing anything to put them in harm's way. You got to watch their loads, as far as how much running they're getting.”

On coaching approach during return to play

“Make sure as us coaches we're conscious of the drills that we're doing, and then scheme wise--what plays are we doing to make sure we're building great habits like running to the ball, drilling in those techniques and fundamentals.”

“A big thing you see in college football right now is a lot of missed tackling, so things like that, just the mentality of how we play in a product that we want to put on the field and keep growing as a defense.”

On Steve Stephens  

“I'm excited for Steve, cuz Steve has grown tremendously. He's been asking a lot of questions our boundary safeties make a lot of tackles and make a lot of plays within the scheme just naturally because of the positions that they're put in and fit in a lot of runs.”

“He's been asking a lot of questions about the front and how he fits so knowing the gaps and Steve has always been a high football IQ guy and a smart player.”

On what Jordan Happle brings 

“He's a guy who's been in Coach Avalos’ scheme. So, first practice out there you know we always talk about how we’ve got to communicate well. He was communicating, he was loud, he was vocal. He knew exactly what he needed to do and how he needed to say it-- calling out the pre snap stuff.”

“That was impressive and I know some other guys had eyebrows raised like okay so he definitely raised the competition level in the room.”

On moving guys around and being prepared for players to miss time

“You just gotta be open minded. Unfortunately if anything ever happens where a kid has to sit out for some time because of the virus,you got to be ready to plug somebody in. We’re always teaching in a way that where, if we have to move somebody, we think about those plans all the time.”

“We've been thinking about that as a staff, you know, unfortunate somebody ends up getting sick or even getting hurt you know you gotta put the next best person in there, to be able to play an execute.”

On recruiting during the pandemic

“We're very aggressive in terms of how we recruit. With Coach Cristobal, doing those virtual tours and building relationships with the young men, building relationships with the families and just staying in constant communication.It’s our job to be able to show them in the best way that we can on these virtual tours of what the facilities look like.”

“Spend time with them, not just on the phone and texting, you have access to Zoom which we all discovered. You can Zoom them and take them through the buildings and take them through campus or whatever you have online. We're gonna stay relentless, that's just what we do. It’s about the engine in the car. We put good players out there on the field, you gotta recruit them.”


Tags: Oregon, Football
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