This past weekend the Oregon football team finally had the opportunity to come together, molding the veterans with the newcomers for the beginning of two-a-day fall practices. On Wednesday the pads go on and the hitting begins, but the past two days of non-contact drills have provided a preview of what Duck fans can look forward to this season.
Speed kills and this team is flat out fast. Allan Amundson recently broke the school record for the 40, linebacker Wes Mallard is a sprinter on the track team, Rashad Bauman and Samie Parker are already well known speed-burners and now newcomer Mike Willis is making a name for himself. Willis is already drawing raves from the coaches and is rumored to be the fastest football player to ever come out of heralded Long Beach Poly high school. At the skill positions on offense, the Ducks look dangerous. Keenan Howry, Jason Willis and Samie Parker look to be the top receivers, but don't be surprised if someone like Keith Allen cracks the lineup. Keith was impressive in the Spring game and either Allen or Paris Warren are sure to be in the rotation this season. At running back Maurice Morris looks better than ever as the #1 tailback and it is evident that Mo is in significantly better shape entering this season and many on the sidelines think he has gotten faster. Morris broke the UO record for carries last season and wore down as the season progressed, but this year he should have a outstanding supporting cast. Both Allan Amundson and Onterrio Smith appear to be running about even for the #2 tailback job and both look very good. Then there is Joey "Heismanton". Joey has been his usual polished self while throwing darts in practices and looks to continue where he left off last season. Jason Fife has improved so much that some on the sidelines say that right now Harrington and Fife look nearly interchangeable.
Nearly the entire team stayed in Eugene this summer to work out and a few players are already showing that they are ready to step up and contribute on game days. Everyone is talking about RS sophomore AK Keyes, who has been shutting down just about anyone he has been locked up with in passing drills from his cornerback position. AK is extremely quick, has a nose for the ball and is displaying a real attitude on the field. Also in the defensive backfield, pencil in Keith Lewis as a starter at one of the safety spots after starring on special teams last year. Lewis is ready for prime time. Defensive end Quinn Dorsey is also impressing, demonstrating explosive speed as he blasts into the backfield. Seth McEwen may also start at DE, but watch out for JC transfer Darrell Wright, who is probably the most impressive newcomer on the team. Wright has bulked his 6-4 frame to 255 pounds and along with Dorsey, is a demon on the pass rush. Speaking of Wrights, Roderkus was on the sidelines at yesterday's practice, still waiting for final word from the clearinghouse to begin practicing. Defensive back Terrence Whitehead has finally been cleared and is in Eugene ready to go. He should practice today. Justin Phinisee has drawn the attention of the coaches and some believe that Phinisee and Whitehead may be the true freshman with the best chance at earning playing time this season. Tim Day and Devan Long are still missing in action, with speculation that they also are awaiting final clearance before they can start practicing. Thankfully, there haven't been any serious known injuries, with several players nursing dings like twisted ankles as a precaution.
The first full contact practice in pads is scheduled for Wednesday at 11:15 a.m., when the stakes go up and more will become known about the 2001 Ducks.