Is a clone coming to Oregon?

What does Mike Bellotti think are the key ingredients for a team that plays well every week? Bellotti was asked that very question during both his weekly Pac-10 media telephone conference and the regular Tuesday media telephone conference, both streamed live on the Internet. Bellotti thinks the keys are leadership or finding leaders among the team and coaches and team members jointly setting a level of expectation on performance.

Following a disastrous outcome on a cold, snowy night in Seattle last Saturday evening, Bellotti is more concerned about next week's game against the Bears than the 41-10 drubbing by the Huskies. He wants his team to focus on the task at hand: the University of California.

"(It's) how you play this game," said Bellotti. "Last week's game is in the books -- you can't change it."

Bellotti indicated that the upcoming game against Cal would be the second game of this season that the Ducks will face a team coached by a former Oregon offensive coordinator. Cal's head coach Jeff Tedford was Bellotti's offensive coordinator from 1998-01. Earlier of course, Oregon played Arizona State coached by Dirk Koetter, another former Oregon assistant. In fact, Bellotti says the Cal coaching staff has seven or eight coaches on its staff that either coached or played for Bellotti previously. When Tedford took over the job as head coach at Cal, he called Bellotti or others on the Oregon coaching staff to pick their brains and glean what ever he could on areas other than the offense -- such things as daily routines or disciplinary rules. Bellotti feels that Tedford has a similar personality to his own and that the two staffs have a great deal of mutual respect for each other. The question then is Cal an Oregon clone?

"The blue print was here at Oregon...he's taken it and done a great job with it," observed Bellotti of his former assistant's progress at Berkeley.

Tedford has found magic in a program that was the basement dweller of the Pac-10 for several years. What did the former Oregon assistant do to turn around the one-time doormat? He found a big running back and plucked a quarterback out of the junior college ranks for starters. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 6-2, 195 out of Butte College was a player Bellotti was not particularly familiar with prior to the season, as the Ducks were not looking for quarterbacks in the JC ranks. Rodgers though is a keeper according to Belloti. Last week the Pac-10 named Rodgers the Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Arizona State. Rodgers threw for 307 yards and three touchdown in the Bears' 51-23 win over the Sun Devils. For the season, the Cal signal caller is 127-for-217, 1,614 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Rodgers is aided in his efforts by running back Adimchinobe Echemandu, 6-0, 225, who has 1,009 yards on 185 carries and 10 touchdowns. Bellotti describes him as a big back with speed. Echemandu has been named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week twice this year.

Naturally, questions about last Saturday's performance or lack of performance popped up for the Duck coach. What was the message to his team this week? What is the general talent level of the Ducks this year? What kind of players are the Ducks recruiting this season to fix the problems? Bellotti said that he both chastised and challenged his team this week in their preparation for Cal on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. He told them to put the ugly loss behind them and dig in for the next contest. Bellotti indicated the most frustrating thing for him about the Washington game, was not what Washington did, but rather what the Ducks didn't do. The execution obviously dropped off in the second half of the game and in Bellotti's mind that the keys to the fourth quarter are determination, fitness and desire. The team that masters those keys will have the upper hand. Certainly the Ducks have an added burden of 12 scholarship players being unable to perform, and among those 12 are key seniors who would normally provide the vocal on-field leadership necessary for a successful week-to-week team. Bellotti firmly believes in his team and is optimistic that the Ducks can do better than their 5-4 record indicates. As far as recruiting goes, the Ducks will continue to look for speed, but a player must also want to be a Duck. Bellotti doesn't feel he tries to convince anyone to come to Oregon, the prospective student-athlete must want what Oregon has to offer. Character is also a consideration in the type of players the Ducks look for on both a regional and national basis. Oregon's recruiting will not drastically change because the players Oregon seeks are the ones that will make Oregon successful and are the right fit. Regarding national recruiting, Bellotti is somewhat cautious pointing out that there is a price for recruiting highly sought after players, and that is how many of the recruiting battles will the Ducks win.

"We will go out and recruit for every single position to make this team better," Bellotti remarked.

On the injury front, Bellotti hopes that junior offensive lineman Mike Delagrange (back spasms) will be available for practice this week as well as senior cornerback Steven Moore (ankle).

The Ducks did not play Cal last year in Tedford's first campaign as the Bears' headman. This will be a homecoming of a sort for Tedford. When he left Oregon, the Ducks were the No. 2 team nationally and had finished their best season ever with an 11-1 record. Just two short years later, the Ducks have a struggling 12-10 record. Gone are the great vocal leaders such as Joey Harrington and Rashad Bauman. For two years the Ducks have sought to find leadership among the players and a level of expectation set by the coaches. For the season, the Ducks have seemed to win big or lose big. The fourth quarter scoring for the Ducks has been abysmal but that can be attributed to the fact the Ducks were either well ahead or well behind in the game. The danger of being behind for a team seeking leadership is that they must not quit. They must believe that something good will happen if they keep playing hard and not lose their faith in what they can do. Bellotti has not lost faith in his team. It is now just a matter of the individuals on the Duck roster to understand that and find it within themselves to believe too.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Autzen Stadium and the game will be carried live on TBS.

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