Five Springs Lists

For many years I have always believed that the Oregon Spring Football Game provides the first glimpse of the team that will take the field the next fall. The games usually include a number of returning starters, a lot of underclassmen and redshirts who begin to make impressions, and a dozen or more new faces including walk-ons and transfers. Sometimes there might even be a new coach or two to watch.

In the past, I have always tried to make sense of the team from its spring game performance. I try to determine who will fill the two-deeps on the roster and who will emerge as team leaders. I have even tried my hand at evaluating the Ducks at this early stage against other Pac-10 Conference teams seeing if I can get a jump on all the preseason publications and prognosticators.

After attending this year's Oregon spring game held May 3 in Autzen Stadium, I have come to the conclusion that my methods bear further scrutiny. I think I have fallen into the same trap that so many college football enthusiasts do – I am making way too much of an event, even an entire spring season, to form any concrete opinions concerning this coming fall.

Perhaps it's the fact that after Jason Fife's performance in the 2002 spring game I believed Oregon would only slightly miss a beat at the quarterback position with the departure of Joey Harrington. After all, Fife with three years in the Oregon program completed 12 of 15 pass attempts for 217 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to throwing highlight film touchdown passes to Samie Parker (twice), Onterrio Smith and George Wrighster, he demonstrated that he could be elusive if needed rushing on one play for 32 yards. Fife looked so good that I thought he was the sure starter for the next two years at Oregon.

Well, Oregon collapsed last season finishing 7-6 after streaking to a Top 25 ranking and a 6-0 record. Fife was indeed the starter but he struggled at times, particularly late in the season, and was forced to sit for periods during several games. At this year's spring game, Fife displayed a lackluster performance, not completing a single pass in four attempts and getting sacked twice. It was redshirt sophomore Kellen Clemens who shined, just as Fife did in 2002, completing 12 passes in 18 attempts for 189 yards and three touchdowns including a 68-yard bomb to Parker.

So what does this all mean? Will Clemens, who had an excellent spring game showing, struggle as Fife did last year if he wins the starting role next season? Or, will he continue to progress and never look back? If Fife continues as the starter, will he blossom in his final season despite struggling at times last year and a poor spring game performance? Or, will he again struggle to find his comfort zone? Following the spring game both the quarterbacks and coach Mike Bellotti didn't commit to any strong opinions concerning the matter. The job is wide open and it's too early to tell who is going to be the starter.

Perhaps another reason why my feelings concerning Oregon football remain ambiguous following the 2003 Spring Game is due to the scoring system used. In the past, with a few exceptions, the first team offense and defense lined up against the second and third string players. This year, a novel point system was employed that allowed the defense to score points by making plays, such as two points for a sack, four points for a fumble recovery, four points for an interception, and so on. In this way the teams were completely divided by platoons, offense (the white team) against defense (the green team) with the first teams generally playing against each other in one scrimmage, followed by the second teams in another scrimmage, followed by the third teamers. The offense won the game, 48-46, which really doesn't tell you much other than that they can rack up 48 points on the Oregon defense in a little more than three quarters.

So, rather than try to make sense of the Oregon spring season to determine where the Ducks stand, I have decided to embark upon compiling Five Spring Lists For Oregon Football Success. These lists have been indicative of Oregon football success in the past and I have no reason to believe that they won't measure up to the task this coming year.

List Number 1: "Seniors Who Must Deliver"

There are six on offense and six on defense. These are players who must play as if there is no tomorrow and inspire the younger players to develop in their positions. These are the players must ensure that the team whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts – a quality that appeared to be missing last year following the graduation of Harrington, Rashad Bauman, Steve Smith, Wesly Mallard, Justin Peele, Maurice Morris, Ryan Schmid and Zack Freiter among others.

      1. Jason Fife, QB, 6-4, 222, 1-Year Letter*
      2. Matt Floberg, FB, 6-3, 240, 2-Year Letter*
      3. Joey Forster, OG, 6-4, 284, 3-Year Letter*
      4. Samie Parker, WR, 5-11, 177, 3-Year Letter*
      5. Josh Rogers, TE, 6-3, 265, 3-Year Letter*
      6. Dan Weaver, C, 6-5, 282, 3-Year Letter
      7. Quinn Dorsey, DE, 6-4, 270, 2-Year Letter*
      8. Sam Hughes, CB, 5-10, 188, 1-Year Letter
      9. Keith Lewis, FS, 6-1, 200, 3-Year Letter
      10. David Martin, OLB, 6-0, 212, 1-Year Letter*
      11. Kevin Mitchell, LB, 5-11, 220, 3-year Letter*
      12. Steven Moore, CB, 5-9, 179, 2-Year Letter

* Utilized Redshirt Year

List Number 2: "Starters Last Year Who Must Fight To Keep Jobs"

It might be easier to count the players most likely to keep their starting jobs from last year. There are fewer of them. On offense I count only center Dan Weaver and placekicker Jared Siegel. On defense I count only defensive tackle Igor Olshansky, linebacker Kevin Mitchell and free safety Keith Lewis (provided he gets in no further legal entanglements). You might disagree with me concerning Samie Parker and Jason Fife who I have included on the list due to their uninspiring performances last year particularly late in the season, but everyone is entitled to an opinion. I have also placed many of the offensive line players on the list that started a number of games last year. I figure that without a featured running back this next year such as Onterrio Smith, these players are going to have to work much harder just as a matter of course.

      1. Jason Fife, QB, 6-4, 222, Sr., 1-Year Letter*
      2. Matt Floberg, FB, 6-3, 240, Sr., 2-Year Letter*
      3. Joey Forster, OG, 6-4, 284, Sr., 3-Year Letter*
      4. Samie Parker, WR, 5-11, 177, Sr., 3-Year Letter*
      5. Adam Snyder, OL, 6-6, 310, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      6. Nick Steitz, OG, 6-4, 305, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      7. Aaron Gipson, CB, 5-8, 179, So., 1-Year Letter
      8. Steven Moore, CB, 5-9, 179, Sr., 2-Year Letter

List Number 3: "Juniors With One or More Years In Program Who Must Now Make Their Mark"

Think of these players as the journeymen carpenters of team. They make up the team mass. The team averages more experienced players in the junior class than any other class regardless of offensive, defensive or special teams units. If these guys don't jell, the team will not only struggle this year, but likely the following season as well. This points to the importance of List Number 1, probably representing the Ducks greatest team challenge going into this fall.

      1. Keith Allen, WR, 6-1, 207, Jr., 2-Year Letter *
      2. Josh Atkins, OT, 6-6, 319, Jr., Squad*
      3. Stepen Clayton, FS, 5-11, 193, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      4. Michael DeLaGrange, OT, 6-6, 328, Jr., 1-Year Letter*
      5. Charles Favroth, CB, 5-11, 197, Jr., 1-Year Letter*
      6. Robin Knebel, C/OT, 6-6, 316, Jr., 1-Year Letter*
      7. Ryan Loftin, TE/LS, 6-4, 244, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      8. Jerry Matson, LB, 6-1, 224, Jr., 1-Year Letter*
      9. Igor Olshansky, DT, 6-6, 305, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      10. Ramone Reed, LB, 6-2, 215, Jr., 2-Year Letter
      11. Ryan Shaw, TB, 5-11, 206, Jr., Squad*
      12. Jared Siegel, PK, 5-10, 193, Jr., 2-Year Letter
      13. Adam Snyder, OT/G, 6-6 310, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      14. Chris Solomona, DE, 6-5, 275, Jr., Redshirt *
      15. Nick Steitz, OG, 6-4, 305, Jr., 2-Year Letter*
      16. Kellen Taylor, WR, 6-1, 190, Jr., Redshirt*
      17. Marley Tucker, Rov, 6-0, 181, Jr., 2-Year Letter
      18. Robby Valenzuela, DT, 6-2, 290, Jr., 2-Year Letter
      19. Scott Vossmeyer, LB, 6-2, 223, Jr., 1-Year Letter*
      20. Kenny Washington, TB, 6-0, 205, Jr., Squad*

List Number 4: "Transfers and Newcomers Could Make A Big Difference"

It would seem that every year a new player or two come into the program and make a huge impression. Who could forget the impacts of transfer tailbacks Saladin McCullough, Rueben Droughns, Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001 respectively? Or, how about true freshman stalwarts such as Rashad Bauman in 1997 and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata last year? One player in a key position can make a big difference. Will transfer tailback Chris Vincent follow in the footsteps of McCullough, Droughns, Morris and Smith? Will high school phenoms such as defensive backs Ryan Gilliam and A.J. Tuitele skip their redshirt years? These newcomers don't necessarily have to garner featured roles on offense and defense. The differences they can make can be felt on special teams as well.

      1. Marcus Maxwell, WR, 6-3, 198, Jr., Transfer
      2. Marcus Miller, LB, 6-2, 214, Jr., Transfer*
      3. Chris Solomona, DE, 6-5, 275, Jr., Redshirt *
      4. Kellen Taylor, WR, 6-1, 190, Jr., Redshirt*
      5. Marc Walker, CB, 5-11, 178, Jr., Transfer
      6. Eddie Whitaker, TE, 6-4, 268, Jr., Transfer
      7. Rodney Woods, CB, 5-10, 176, Jr., Transfer
      8. Jordan Carey, WR, 5-11, 193, Fr.
      9. Johnny DuRocher, QB, 6-4, 197, Fr.
      10. Victor Filipe, DE, 6-3, 295, Fr.
      11. James Finley, WR, 6-2, 195, Fr.
      12. Ryan Gilliam, CB, 5-9, 158, Fr.
      13. Pat So'oalo, OL, 6-6, 302, Fr.
      14. A.J. Tuitele, DB, 5-11, 193, Fr.
      15. Chris Vincent, TB, 6-1, 218, Fr., Transfer*

List Number 5: "Young Players Who Lettered Last Year and Played as True Freshmen Could Be This Year's Starters/Stars"

Do you remember Jeremy Asher, Rashad Bauman, Latin Berry, Eric Castle, Pat Johnson, Matt LaBounty, Wesly Mallard, Ricky Whittle? These, among others, are all former Ducks who played as true freshmen, lettered for four years and end up getting drafted into the NFL. Do you remember what these guys meant to their teams even as sophomores? Below is a list of guys who have a shot at the same glory.

      1. Marques Binns, CB, 5-11, 164, So., 1-Letter
      2. Aaron Gipson, CB, 5-8, 179, So., 1-Letter
      3. Terrence Whitehead, TB, 5-10, 207, So., 1-Letter
      4. Haloti Ngata, DT, 6-4, 339, So., 1-Letter
      5. Anthony Trucks, OLB, 6-1, 216, So., 1-Letter

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