Ducks Open Fall Camp

Football 2005 for the University Oregon started Friday as 103 student-athletes turned out and began practice. Fall camp was kicked off as members of the media had lunch with Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti. Bellotti indicated that there would be a huge focus on finishing plays, series, games and not dwelling on last year's disappointing 5-6 record, the worst in Bellotti's 11-year tenure with the Ducks.

"Meeting with our team yesterday when they reported I was very encouraged and excited about the attitude and the attentiveness of this group," said Bellotti. "They understand we are on a mission this year."

Describing his team as being senior laden at the skill positions on offense Oregon will introduce a new offense this season that borrows heavily from several other programs, thanks to new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. While acknowledging that the new offense may have some things similar to programs like BYU, Texas Tech and Utah, the Ducks will put their own brand on the new offense.

"We've borrowed a lot of things," claimed Bellotti. "And it will become the Oregon offense very soon."

The new offense which was previewed during the spring practice sessions will have the quarterback operating from the shotgun formation and will seek to put more receivers into pass patterns and use a single running back threat as an option. The head coach felt since many of the key personnel including quarterback Kellen Clemens, running back Terrence Whitehead, wide receiver Demetrius Williams and tight end/H Back Tim Day are seniors, that the transition could be done much easier than if the core of skill players were underclassmen. Day, this season will be designated as a H-back, meaning he will not line up on the line of scrimmage and junior Dante Rosario, who last year was a fullback will be a tight end this season. Bellotti envisioned times when both Day and Rosario will be on the field at the same time.

Bellotti described Whitehead as, "the rock by which we build on."

One question mark on the offense will be how well the relatively inexperienced offensive line will perform. The Ducks graduated four seniors off the 2004 offensive line and this year the line is anchored by junior Enoka Lucas. Sophomore Geoff Schwartz, 6-7, 365 is a huge player that was impressive in the spring and reportedly has had tremendous performance increases during the off-season in the weight room.

The coach thought the running game would be strong because of Whitehead and new comer Jonathan Stewart along with redshirt freshman Terrell Jackson and true freshman Jeremiah Johnson. The quarterback position too is stable with Clemens leading the way. Bellotti believes Clemens knows football and has had some very impressive statistics in his career. Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf, both of whom had solid spring games, back up Clemens.

An offensive area that Bellotti was also pleased about was wide receiver because of the depth. Williams could be an NFL selection next spring and Bellotti mentioned one significant player that just walked onto the team this week, Jordan Kent 6-5, 210. Better known for his exploits on the basketball court and in track events, Kent is attempting to become one of the first 3-sport athletes in the Pac-10 conference.

"A guy I've sort of recruited for about eight years," Bellotti said semi-seriously in his description of Jordan Kent. "But don't tell his dad (Oregon men's basketball head coach Ernie Kent."

During the first workout of the day, Kent used his (note: edited to read) 10.41-second 100-meter speed on a pattern to beat a defender down field. Shagging in a pass from Leaf, the ball was tipped by the defender, but Kent kept after the ball and even though the ball squirted out of his hands as he hit the ground, Kent drew the notice of all the spectators lining the practice field.

Defensively, the Ducks return a big, strong athletic line anchored by junior Haloti Ngata. This may be Ngata's final season as a Duck and all indications is that the 6-foot-5, 345-pound tackle may make 2005 the most memorable for Duck fans. Ngata along with senior defensive end Devan Long lead a solid defense that allow the team to go away from an "all-out" pressure that the Ducks have previously used in the past. The defensive secondary led by seniors Aaron Gipson, Justin Phinisee and junior J.D. Nelson is solid and the question mark on defense is at the linebacker position. Bellotti describes the linebacker corps as a "cast of characters" with only senior Anthony Trucks as the one player with experience. Actually, Trucks is listed as a strong safety but in the Oregon defensive scheme he plays linebacker. Bellotti felt there were several players that could contribute including junior college transfer Blair Phillips. It had been speculated that Phillips would face difficulty meeting the entrance requirements, but he along with nearly the entire 2005 recruiting class made it into school. The only exceptions from the 2005 class are offensive lineman Pat So'oalo and wide receiver Derrick Jones. No decision by the NCAA clearinghouse has been made in So'oalo's case and Bellotti felt a decision would come in a few days. Jones however, will not meet entrance requirements but could enroll later on in the year.

Junior Paul Martinez will perform the kicking duties and the punter will be junior Matt Dragich.

Bellotti felt his team was in good health but he did mention that Nelson would be in a cast for the first couple of weeks of fall camp.

The first scrimmage in fall camp will be next Tuesday, the first day the Ducks will be in Pads. Oregon will open the season on September 1st at the Reliant Dome in Houston against the University of Houston Cougars. Bellotti mentioned that Houston is below sea level and should be very hot and humid on game day. According to Bellotti, the home team has the option of deciding whether or not the roof of the domed stadium will be opened or closed for the game. Bellotti indicated the Ducks would be prepared for the humid conditions regardless of the circumstances.

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