Smith declared ineligible at Oregon

The NCAA declared running back T.R. Smith ineligible at Oregon, head coach Mike Bellotti announced today. Bellotti indicated in a media release that Smith was declared ineligible "for reasons not previously discerned through its initial evaluation required for admission."

The University would not further elaborate citing the Student Privacy Act as the reason.

The loss of Smith from the Oregon roster reduced the number of running backs participating in the spring workouts to two players, Terrell Jackson and walk-on Andiel Brown. Senior Terrence Whitehead was held out of Friday's scrimmage but may return to practice next week. Smith, who had enrolled at Oregon at the beginning of winter term had given the Ducks a national letter of intent last year after graduating from Jefferson High School in Portland. Super Prep magazine had named Smith an All-American out of high school following his senior year of school despite missing the majority of the year due to an ankle injury. Smith had worked out with Barton Football Camps formerly Air Attack while awaiting enrollment at the University of Oregon.

During his recruiting process, Smith had given an oral commitment to Oregon State but changed his mind once he received an offer from Oregon.

The news of Smith's dismissal came at the end of the scrimmage. The Ducks worked for about two hours inside the Moshofsky Center at the Autzen complex. The practice was initially scheduled to begin at 3:45 p.m. but was delayed until about 4:45 p.m. The actual scrimmage was conducted as five Oregon quarterbacks rotated using a number of various plays out of a shotgun formation. Occasionally the quarterback did lineup behind the center but it was clear that the Ducks are working hard on a new look that is orchestrated by new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.

Statistically, senior Kellen Clemens was 6-of-10 for 45 yards passing while his back up sophomore Dennis Dixon was 4-of-6 for 36 yards. Sophomore Brady Leaf was 3-of-7 for 40 yards. Because of Smith's absence and Whitehead being held out, Jackson and Brown did all the work running the ball. Brown, a walk-on from Cleveland High School in Portland led the way with eight carries for 42 yards while Jackson had 15 yards on six hauls. Dixon also had three carries for 20 yards. One of Smith's teammates on last year's Les Schwab 4A All-Star game, Ryan Keeling was the leading receiver with three catches for 39 yards. Brian Paysinger had two catches for 26 yards.

A player that maybe having the best spring is junior transfer James Finley. The big receiver showed great speed and the ability to cut quickly. He also showed tenacity at staying with the ball to make a catch.

"I'll take a shot for a catch," said Finley of his courage. "Anytime. Anytime (to make a catch)."

Finley, 6-2, 206, also faced adversity after signing a letter of intent to Oregon. After spending two years at Compton College in Los Angeles, Finley enrolled at Oregon this winter. Finley indicated after Friday's practice that he spoke to Smith about the ordeal and hoped that somehow that it would be of benefit to Smith. Like Smith, Finley also had at one point committed to Oregon State but after failing to meet entrance requirements he enrolled at Compton. Once he was enrolled at Compton he was free to choose to go anywhere he wanted and he committed to Oregon two years ago. However, his entrance scores were challenged and he stayed at Compton. Interestingly, Finley mentioned he carried a 3.1 grade point average. Asked whom he thought had made the challenges to his score; Finley was blunt in his answer.

"My dad and I think it was Oregon State," responded Finley.

This is the second year in a row that Oregon has had a player declared ineligible by the NCAA. Last year Jerome Johnson was forced to leave the team during fall camp after having been a student for two terms and making Johnson's case very similar to Smith's. Like Johnson, Smith cannot regain his eligibility at Oregon or any other Pac-10 school because he had received institutional financial aid.

Oregon had not recruited a player from Jefferson in several years and it was hoped that Smith's arrival might mark a rebuilding of a connection between Oregon and the fabled high school in Northeast Portland.

The Ducks will practice next week and will scrimmage next Saturday.

Notes:
Demetrius Williams and Aaron Gipson were not dressed down along with Whitehead. Bellotti said that Josh Tschirgi suffered a sprain to his left ankle but was walking under his own power after practice. Bellotti felt that Tschirigi's injury was not serious.

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