Quarterbacks Speak Up (about each other)

There probably isn't another subject that sparks more debate concerning the University of Oregon football program this year than the quarterbacks. Will sophomore Kellen Clemens beat out senior Jason Fife? Who is showing up more in fall practice? Who has the better arm? Who is more mobile? Who possesses the greatest winning attitude? Who is the better leader? Who has the team's confidence? In recent weeks these angles and perhaps a dozen more have been exhausted by the media and fans alike.

Pushing aside all the speculation, rumor and controversy, there is really only one thing that is known for certain at this point: coach Mike Bellotti considers the two quarterbacks to be "equal" and in a dead-heat competition this fall. And, it will be Bellotti, along with the rest of the coaching staff, who will ultimately decide who sits and who plays.

Given these circumstances I decided to turn the tables on the two contenders by asking them eight identical questions about each other. I was most impressed by each player's thoughtfulness in answering the questions and the amount of respect and friendship each held for the other. Only in one instance did the young men pass on my question or attempt to sidestep the issue. This regarded their opinion of the other player's weakness or areas for improvement. This may be the result of media relations training that both players have received through the Oregon athletic department or a genuine unwillingness to hint at anything that might be considered a disparagement of the other player and promote controversy.

Kellen Clemens

     1. What are Jason's greatest strengths?

"I'd be the first one to acknowledge Jason's strengths. He's a great guy. There are a lot of things he does very well playing the position. He has very good speed for a guy of his size. He's got great arm strength. One thing he's definitely got is experience with a year of (starting) play under his belt, and not to mention, being around guys like Joey (Harrington) and A.J. (Feeley) for that long and learning from them. He has maturity."

     2. What are Jason's weaknesses or areas that need improvement?

"I think I'll pass on that one."

     3. What memory would you include on a Jason Fife highlight reel?

"The Fresno State comeback was great. Really, just throw together those first six games (last year). Those first six games, he was very, very good."

     4. What will it take for Jason to beat you out this fall?

"That's a great question. I haven't heard that before. That puts me on the spot. Can we come back to that one?" {Sic} "Bottom line, I think he's just going to have to play consistent, quality football, make smart decisions and not turn the ball over. The winner of this, the guy that goes into the first game as the starter, will be the guy who plays consistent college football, is dependable."

     5. What do you respect most about Jason?

"How he's treated me through the whole thing. He's been unbelievable. If I have a question, whether we're battling (competing for the starting position) right before the Seattle Bowl, or whether he's established himself as the guy going in against MSU, he's always been more than helpful. He's kind of taken me under his wing going on his third year, really looked out for me. Just the maturity with which he has handled the situation of us battling for the spot that (is what) I really admire."

     6. What have you learned from Jason?

"A lot of it I came to learn from watching (him) last year – how he handled it, being the guy that stepped in for Joey, how he handled all that pressure and was very relaxed and very laid back and just kind of took it all in stride."

     7. What do you see Jason doing after football?

"He's a chemistry major, I think. So, I guess he's going to do something with human…I couldn't tell you. He's not going to be a golfer; I do know that much."

     8. What NFL team could you see Jason playing for?

"Jason? I think Jason would fit in with… for some reason I see him with Tampa Bay, which would be a good squad for him to go to. Why Tampa Bay, I don't know."

Jason Fife

     1. What are Kellen's greatest strengths?

"He's like a sponge. Anytime somebody can give him some fresh information, he wants to soak it up. I think Kellen's work ethic by far is his greatest asset. No matter how his arm's hurting him, or how much he doesn't want to do something because he's sore or tired, he'll fight through it and he'll give 110% to the end of practice."

     2. What are Kellen's weaknesses or areas that need improvement?

"Kellen? I don't think he has any weaknesses. Kryptonite?"

     3. What memory would you include on a Kellen Clemens highlight reel?

"There was a time that we were at practice. I think it was his freshman year, before he got hollered at 20 times about this, but he was rolling one way scrambling out of the pocket and saw a receiver running the other way about 30 yards down field, and (he) jumped and threw it to him in mid-air. And, I'm looking at Joey, like ‘OK, this kid's got an arm.'"

     4. What will it take for Kellen to beat you out this fall?

"The only thing I have an edge on him is the fact that I have more experience with the offense even if its just a couple of years, with reading the defenses in the Pac-10 – basically proving that he is able to comprehend things the same way."

     5. What do you respect most about Kellen?

"I respect his attitude. He's a perfectly capable guy and he and I have gone through a lot already. His lack of an ego is something that is very commendable. I know there are a lot of quarterbacks that wouldn't stick around for something like this if they were (in) his year, if they had the time to maybe transfer they might, just to not have to deal with anything like this. So, I commend him for sticking around and sticking with his teammates."

     6. What have you learned from Kellen?

"The biggest thing I've learned from him is dealing with (my) attitude and the fact that you know - you have a bad day – shrug it off. You do something bad – oh well, I'm going to come back and do something better, always competing within yourself is his biggest attribute that he teaches me."

     7. What do you see Kellen doing after football?

"Hopefully go on to the league. Oh, you mean after all football? That's easy. He'll be a rancher out in Burns."

     8. What NFL team could you see Kellen playing for?

"It'll have to be the Broncos. I don't think he'd accept anything else, maybe the Colts."

eDuck Top Stories