Speed, Strength and Nastiness
"I'm looking for speed, strength and nastiness," Bellotti announced tersely. "All across the board and I haven't seen enough of it yet."
The Ducks started the afternoon session with a variety of drills including kickoff returns that saw red shirt freshman Ryan Gilliam demonstrate his speed with a return for a touchdown. Even though it was a practice drill, Gilliam caught the attention of the many spectators in the stands.
When the actual scrimmage started, Bellotti believed the offense dominated the defense despite having four players held out for academic disciplinary reasons. The four were held out of this week's scrimmage and will be able to resume practice next week. Bellotti characterized the offensive effort as players taking the challenge of playing short handed and making things happen. Kellen Clemens led the way with a 3-of-4 effort for 46 yards and two rushes of a net 21 yards but including one run of over 30 yards.
"He worked very hard in of the off-season," Bellotti said of Clemens. "He's the acknowledged leader of this football team."
Clemens can be one of the top quarterbacks in the country next season according to Bellotti and the junior quarterback from Burns (Ore.) will become better during the spring practice sessions. Bellotti also had praise for Johnny DuRocher who had 95 yards in passing on 6-of-10 completions. Bellotti described DuRocher as being more comfortable with the offense as the spring workouts have continued.
Other bright spots for the offense was the running of Chris Vincent and walk-on Andiel Brown from Cleveland HS in Portland. Vincent showed power and strength in his running style today and ended up with five carries for 17 yards including one 12-yard touchdown run when he broke three tackles on the way to the goal line. Brown had two touchdown runs in set up positions inside the 20-yard line and on the 2-yard line. Brown was elusive and physical when he saw the goal line.
Bellotti wants to see more of the kind of running that Vincent displayed on Saturday. Vincent had a strong spring and fall camp last season, but seemed to disappear as the season progressed.
"He's done that in the past in the spring, he's done it early this past year at the Mississippi State game, but I need to see that every time he carries the football," commented Bellotti as if he was encouraging Vincent. " It can't be once in a while that he does that. He's not the fastest tailback but he is the biggest and he can be one of the strongest and I expect that type of run every time he touches the football."
Tight end Eddie Whitaker's name hasn't been mentioned much before today, but on Saturday, the 6-5 receiver caught his head coach's attention. Whitaker had three catches for 51 yards. Bellotti felt that Whitaker is becoming more attuned to the Oregon offense and has the ability to catch the ball and making runs after the catch.
"It's a nice thing to see his (Whitaker) comfort zone with the offense," commented Bellotti.
Defensively, the Ducks lagged behind the offense though three players continue to stand out in the headman's mind. Senior tackle Robby Valenzuela had two sacks, while Jerry Matson and Marley Tucker added consistent play to defensive side of the ball.
"I don't think our defense quite responded to the challenge," Bellotti remarked. "I'm not really happy one side really dominates, I want it to be a fighting, biting, scratching, clawing kind of battle where we fight very hard and (we) compete on every play."
Bellotti did admit that both sides were down in bodies available but would not use that as a reason for one side having a better day than others. He did mention that there was several missed tackles and did conclude that the ball carries were partially responsible.
Gilliam showed off his tackling skills with a tackle for loss of six yards.
"He's put on 10-15 pounds," said Bellotti of the Gilliam. "What we want him to do is use his speed, to play at the speed level at which he can run."
Bellotti believes Gilliam is courageous and needs to continue to work on technique and continue to understand his role and responsibilities. The head coach concluded that Gilliam is a playmaker that is learning and developing.
Special teams had some moments of concern. The Ducks were using the No. 3 long snapper and there were some problems with the snap and placement of the ball. Marques Binns was able to block one field goal attempt and Bellotti thought the reason for that was because of a high snap and subsequent placement that threw off the kicker's timing.
"I talked to the team a lot about the fact we need to take as much pride in our special teams," revealled Bellotti . "We can not allow miscues to hurt us either by giving up a kickoff return or not executing a field goal opportunity."
To say the Ducks played poorly would not be accurate. Rather, Bellotti sounded more like a jockey riding a thoroughbred and knowing when to use the whip. The Ducks did not commit a penalty in the first half of the scrimmage and only had a couple in the waning minutes of the practice – due to fatigue in Bellotti's estimation. However, as all good taskmasters, not making mistakes is not enough, he wants it all. He wants his team to play with more aggressiveness and a "bring-it" attitude. He wants his team to execute at full speed and play with speed, strength and nastiness. The Ducks are now half way through the spring workouts and have more time to develop the traits the head coach has in mind.
Oregon will conclude spring football with the annual spring game that will be held on May 1, 2004 in Autzen Stadium, with a scheduled start at 12:30 p.m.
J.D. Nelson suffered a concussion, the severity is not yet known.
Rodney Woods had an elbow sprain.
Donte Rosario bruised some ribs.
Scott Vossmeyer had a stinger.
Sean Flannigan's right ankle is still tender.
The head coach categorized none of the injuries as serious and he expects all to practice next week.
On the academic suspensions:
The four were suspended for just this week's scrimmage, but obviously they had received the ire of their coach. When asked about the four, Bellotti was caustic when he mentioned that the players were standing on the sidelines, watching practice.
"The cheerleaders," Bellotti said sarcastically.
Clemens: 3-of-4 for 46 yards
Leaf: 2-of-2 for 9-yards
DuRocher: 6-of-12 for 95 yards
Dixon: 1-of-2 for 8-yards, one interception
Brown: 5-34 yards, two touchdowns
Clemens: 2-21 yards, long of 30 yards
Vincent: 5-17 yards, one touchdown
Rexius: 4-15 yards
Dixon: 1-11 yards
Whitaker: 3-51 yards
Strong: 2-11 yards
Vincent: 2-37 yards
Rexius: 1-19 yards
Brown: 1-22 yards
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