EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon opens spring practice on Wednesday under coach Mario Cristobal. But before he even got his preview press conference underway on Tuesday, he shared his thoughts on another Oregon team, the sixth-ranked women’s basketball team.
The Oregon women are coming off their first-ever Pac-12 tournament championship and are expected to host first-round games for the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is on Monday.
“I know we’ll be there in full support,” Cristobal told reporters in Eugene before getting down to football business.
Cristobal replaced Willie Taggart, who bolted to take his dream job at Florida State. The team’s co-offensive coordinator, Cristobal was hired soon after Taggart left after players publicly campaigned for him.
Cristobal’s debut as coach came in the Las Vegas Bowl, which the Ducks lost to Boise State. Oregon finished the season 7-6.
Running back Royce Freeman and offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby are among those who have since moved on. But the Ducks return quarterback Justin Herbert, who missed five games last season with a broken collarbone. Linebacker Troy Dye is also back.
“Certainly we’re excited as can be about spring ball. It’s always that time of year when there’s a lot of hope, a lot of new players, some guys that have developed and it’s their time,” Cristobal said. “You certainly have an opportunity to set your goals for your team, to improve, to elevate the standards.”
Both Herbert and Dye are atop the spring depth chart, as is running back Tony Brooks-James and safety Ugo Amadi.
Center Jake Hansen and safety Nick Pickett are injured but are expected to return before the end of the spring. Linebacker Sampson Niu is out for the entire session.
The focus, Cristobal said, will be on fundamentals with an aim on reducing penalties and turnovers. Consistency is another point of emphasis.
“You can never be good enough at technique, you can never have enough polish on your craft,” Cristobal said.
The Ducks will practice on April 7 at Franklin High School in Portland. The annual spring game is set for April 21 at Autzen Stadium.
Overall, the Ducks want to “establish a culture of excellence.”
“We want to develop an intolerance for anything or anyone that does not uphold the standards of our culture,” he said. “It’s important to our guys to make being a Duck a very important, a very difficult club to be a member of, because of the sacrifices that we make and how hard we work.”
Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt posted to Twitter: “Getting a lot done. First practice tomorrow. Definitely ready to get back out on the field. Really appreciate the players in meetings today. Retention is good! Go Ducks!”