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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, December 03, 2023

Football: UW prepares for ‘supersonic’ pace

LOS ANGELES—When the Oregon offense gets billed as fast, the first inclination is to think about 40-yard dash times and the big-play ability across the offensive skill positions.

Oregon junior running backs Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James both average over 6.5 yards per carry. Freshman wide receiver DeAnthony Thomas makes separating from defenses after the catch look easy, and he also has three return touchdowns (one punt, two kickoff) this year.

As a unit, the Ducks average 7.0 yards per play and over 515 total yards of offense per game.

However, Oregon is also fast in the sense that they mostly work without a huddle and try to snap the ball before the defense can re-align.

The UW defense has used the 30 days between games to prepare for both aspects.

"The running has been intense these last few weeks," redshirt junior strong safety Shelton Johnson said.

"Our coaches are preparing us for the worst," senior free safety and team captain Aaron Henry added. "They're preparing us for practice to be way worse than the game, from a tempo standpoint."

Henry said when the Ducks push the pace, the offense snaps the ball within eight to 10 seconds of the ball being spotted. In preparation, the Badger scout offenses split into two units in a drill Johnson called ‘supersonic.'

"We have two scout teams, and they basically just run plays as fast as possible," he said.

Redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Chris Borland said the two scout teams fired off plays at seven or eight second intervals.

"There is no time for a break or anything," Borland said. "It's a rush, but we can get it done in that amount of time."

The first time the defense lined up against two scout teams in practice, the results were, by all accounts, not pretty.

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"I was kind of shocked; it was almost unrealistic," Henry said. "We were down the field covering the play and the other offense was already lined up ready to run another play. It was extremely difficult."

Henry and Borland both said they thought the defense had become very comfortable playing at that pace and confident in getting set on time.

Over the course of the season, miscommunication has led to several big plays against Wisconsin's secondary. Henry said the structure of communication from the sideline to the huddle and the huddle to the snap of the ball will be simplified to ensure the defense can get set in time.

"I've seen on [Oregon's] film a number of times where [defenders] are running across the field or guys don't really know where they're supposed to be," the first-team all-Big Ten defensive back said. "Once they get it going, they're really, really good at it."

Henry said the increased pace is designed to force defenses to make mistakes, but also noted that it provides more opportunities.

"They say pressure busts pipes, but pressure also makes diamonds."


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