Thing Cruising Along Nicely for the Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. - From all indications, everything seems to be progressing smoothly for the Ducks after two weeks of practice.

When asked if the Ducks were where they wanted to be, Head Coach Chip Kelly made sure to emphasize the fact that he would rather be nowhere but where they currently stand two weeks into fall camp.

"We want to be right here, right now," Kelly said. "Our kids practiced really, really, really well today."

Kelly felt that both the morning and afternoon practice sessions on Saturday went well and his staff is happy with the progress the team has made.

Oregon is ranked fifth in both the pre-season USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25 Poll.

For those players who will be playing together as a starting unit, things still remain unclear. While it is easy to pencil in players such as Kenjon Barner, Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso, and John Boyett into the starting unit, no group has been solidified as the true starters yet, according to Kelly, who says that will all become clear around the time of the Ducks' 22nd practice.

One position that many have paid extra attention to has been the quarterback battle between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota. After the surprise departure of Darron Thomas to the NFL, Kelly and the coaching staff have had the privilege of once again pitting two of its top prospects against one another in order to determine the eventual starting quarterback of the Ducks. Things are going very well for both quarterbacks after two weeks of camp. Kelly was asked if one of the quarterbacks was beginning to separate from the other.

"They are both playing at a real high level right now," Kelly admitted regarding Bennett and Mariota's competition. "I want them hopefully to make it be a difficult decision for us; that means they are both playing really well."

Though this may make the coaches stay up later than they already do, it is great for all Duck fans to hear that both quarterbacks are performing at a similar, high level of play. If this trend continues (that of both quarterbacks playing at similar, high levels), Duck fans will be in for a treat when Oregon takes on Arkansas State at Autzen Stadium on September 1, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff time.

On the defensive side of the ball, players and coaches alike are confident that they have grown as a unit and are right where they want to be as well.

What about the strengths of his hyped 2012 defense? Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti made sure to reference how capable his first teamers are.

"Our first unit is strong, period," said Aliotti. "I would probably say our D-line has the most depth of all the positions so I would say overall with our depth there that would probably be our strongest unit right now. Our first team is pretty strong; we just need to develop some second-teamers that can give us some valuable depth at other positions."

Depth has always been an important aspect of the defense that Aliotti runs. The ability to rotate players on and off the field (up to 25 defensive players per game) has been a key feature of a defense that relies on a constant interchange allowing Aliotti fresh bodies in the game while throwing multiple blitzes and packages at opposing offenses.

Though there is still some uncertainty surrounding the team, all indications are that players are practicing well and giving the coaches some tough decisions before the start of the season.

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