Oregon Opens 2005 Spring Camp

The Oregon Ducks opened their annual spring workouts on Saturday with 87 of the 91 players listed on the current roster dressed in shells and helmets on a cool but dry morning. The Ducks' offense started the spring out working on an offense that Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti described as being brand new to the team. The offense contains new shifts, new options and an apparent new attitude of openness in communication among the offensive players and their coordinator, Gary Crowton.

"Seventy percent of the offense was brand new, maybe 80 percent," said Bellotti. "We feel the need to focus on the new things and spend a majority of time doing (new offense) because we know we can do the old stuff."

Crowton, the former head coach at BYU imported some thing similar to the high flying Cougar offense of Provo. While many expected to see Duck senior quarterback Kellen Clemens hurl the ball down field continuously during the first day what actually happened was Clemens tossing option pitches to senior wide receiver Dee Williams, handing the ball off to senior running back Terrence Whitehead along with throwing the ball. Meanwhile some of the things one would expect on the first day, conditioning drills, fundamentals and running routes are still the same, but with more spirit.

"Good intensity for helmet day," said Bellotti of the team's effort.

The Ducks must be in shells and helmets for the first two practices according to Bellotti. Oregon will dress in pads on Tuesday.

While the new look may change over the course of the spring there was reason to believe the senior stalwarts are ready to remove what Williams characterized as a "bad taste" -- the 2004 football season, and get down to business of playing football. The Ducks are coming off the worst season of Bellotti's tenure at Oregon, a year Oregon went 5-6 for the season. Williams found himself a recipient of Clemens pitches and this is something new for the Ducks' leading receiver.

"It's kind of crazy now I have to realize that I maybe running into linemen, so I have to run low," laughed Williams. "That's going to be a hard thing for me as I'm used to running high…but I'll get the hang of it."

For Clemens the change in offensive coordinator may mean less time scrambling away from rushing defenders and more opportunities to find receivers. In the sets on Saturday, Clemens operated from the shotgun formation, something he has seldom done in his three previous years. What advantages does it give him?

"Gives me a little more vision, get the ball out my hands that much sooner," said Clemens. "(Giving up) 40 sacks is not something we can do twice (two years in a row)."

One significant reason for last year's humbling season was the offense's inability to protect the quarterback. Whether that was a result of offensive line or quarterback play may be debatable but what is clear is that the Ducks intend on changing the number of sacks given up this year.

But since this was the first day of practice, Clemens was cautious in talking about the play. Even though there were some good running plays and there was good enthusiasm, it was only the first day of spring practice. What if anything was different? According to Clemens one thing that was different was Crowton.

"It was a different atmosphere out there," remarked Clemens of Crowton. "Very upbeat, very exciting he was the first one to coach anybody on the field…He's a bit more enthusiastic than what we've been used to."

The Ducks will workout during the month of April and are allowed 15 practice sessions. The first scrimmage is scheduled for next Friday.

Notes: Tight ends Tim Day and Nate LiaBraaten were in shells without their helmets along with corner back Rodney Woods. All participated lightly in practice but were the main candidates for shagging punts. The three are recovering from various injuries and may see limited duty this spring. Offensive lineman Mark Lewis was on crutches and did not participate.

A walk-on tryout was held for kickers on Saturday.

Bellotti also reported that special teams coaching responsibilities is being sorted out among the staff. Don Pellum is doing kickoffs. Neal Zoumboukos is coaching punting while John Neal is in change of punt returns. Gary Campbell is responsible for kickoff returns. Steve Greatwood is handling PAT and field goals while Michael Grey and Nick Aliotti are heading the point after and field goal blocking units.

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