Great Time To Be A Duck

Oregon has a legitimate Heisman candidate, there are billboards and murals everywhere touting the Ducks top ten-football team and Eugene is buzzing. The hottest ticket in town right now? Getting your name on the list for access to the next scrimmage is probably close. This is uncharted territory for Oregon fans.

I remember only a few short years ago, while attending fall practices that only a handful of the faithful could be found scattered along the sidelines. Joe, who handles security and is a world class Oregon football fan, knew most of the regulars by sight. Yesterday he was handing out fliers asking the many fans who are now showing up to see their Ducks run through drills to please park in secondary lots because the main parking area simply can't handle the crowds. It's difficult to appreciate how far this program has come.

This team is becoming a football factory, with talented players stockpiled so that every year there is a generous pool for Mike Bellotti to reload. Garrett Sabol played as a true freshman and made some big time plays his first season, but if he joined the team now, he would likely redshirt his first year. The new freshman players look great and would have contributed in the "old days" but the reality is that in 2001 most can expect to hone their skills on the scout team.

The depth at the skill positions is amazing this year. At quarterback, running back and wide receiver there just aren't enough balls to go around. If you are a team that dreams of beating Oregon, you had better plan on scoring at least thirty points and often that won't be enough. Running backs Ryan Shaw and Kenny Washington have looked excellent in practice and yet I keep wondering which one might redshirt this year with Morris, Amundson and Smith playing ahead of them. Paris Warren and Keith Allen both look like they are ready to break out at the wide receiver position, but with Keenan Howry, Samie Parker and Jason Willis vacuuming up everything thrown their way, they don't have much of a chance to start. No need to even talk about the quarterback position, other than to say that if Joey needs a breather, the Ducks won't skip a beat when Jason Fife steps onto the field. I am also happy to report that there appears to be a lot fewer injuries this year in fall camp. Probably the most serious involves cornerback AK Keyes who has been drawing raves, but his future appears to be resting in the hands of some specialists, who will decide if his neck injury is career ending.

Autograph day is this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and I can only imagine the lines. There are a lot of great personalities on this team. If you go, among the newer players to have your kids meet are guys like Marley Tucker and Jason Mohamed, who are polite and well-spoken young men. Now if your child is a daredevil who dreams of skydiving, Kevin Mitchell is your guy. This team enjoys both top talent and excellent chemistry. Trust me, they will win a ton of games. It is a great time to be a Duck fan.

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