Skill and Size

When Mike Bellotti faced the media on Friday and talked about the new Oregon offense he mentioned that Oregon had borrowed from a number of programs including BYU, Louisiana Tech and Utah. It is no small wonder that Gary Crowton, the new offensive coordinator for the Ducks this year had stops at BYU and Louisiana Tech and was very familiar with Utah's offense under Urban Meyer.

The Ducks enter this season after a disappointing 5-6 record, the first losing season in Mike Bellotti's 11 years at Oregon as head coach. The Ducks seemed to grow stagnate over the last three seasons and Bellotti was determined to change things around. It didn't help that two of his former top aides, Jeff Tedford and Dirk Koetter are now the headmen at two of Oregon's rivals, California and Arizona State. Familiarity is good, but when opposing teams seemed to know what was going to happen before the Duck players on the field knew, it was time for a change. When Andy Ludwig opted to head off to Utah, Bellotti was able to persuade Crowton to come to Eugene with impressive background in both college and the NFL.

Crowton spent four seasons as a head coach at BYU. While at BYU, Crowton's offense led the nation with a whopping 542.9-yard average per game and scored 46.8 points per game and finished the 2001 season with a 12-2 record.

Prior to BYU Crowton was the offensive coordinator (1999) for the Chicago Bears and his Bears offense ranked third in the NFL in passing (258.5 yard average) and set a franchise record of 4,136 yards passing for one season. The 1999 Bears were eight in the league in total offense (345.2 avg.). Before the Bears Crowton spent three seasons as head coach at Louisiana Tech building an offense the totaled 12,745 yards (374.9 per game avg.) and 115 touchdown passes.

The obvious question then, how will Crowton's influence effect the Ducks? Is Oregon's talent comparable to what Crowton had to deal with in the past? Setting aside NFL players, Crowton responded to the question in a quiet yet enthused fashion when he started talking about the Duck receiving corps.

As I'm looking through the talent comparatively, the skill here, we have skill with size," said Crowton "That's what I like, that's the difference I've seen."

Looking at Oregon's roster it isn't hard to see what Crowton's talking about. Starting off with Demetrius Williams, 6-2, 191, Williams has the ability to run away from defenders in the race to the end zone. Throw in junior college transfer James Finley, who woke everyone up during spring practice causing many to feel that Finley is the best football player on the Ducks roster. Finley is also stands 6-feet-2, and like Williams has breakaway speed. Another player with skill and size is red shirt freshman Jaison Williams. At 6-5, Jaison Williams impressed many with his performance in the spring game last April. A player waiting to explode is Cameron Colvin, 6-2, 199, who has shown flashes of being a game breaker. In fact going down the Ducks receiving roster of 19 players only two players are under 6-2. Kyle Weatherspoon and walk-on Andrew Murphy are both 6-1.

Oregon's new offense plans to spread the ball around and may see as many as five receivers in a pattern. The Ducks have seniors in all of the key skill positions (quarterback, running back, tight end/H-Back and wide receiver) and have more depth than anytime in the history of the program. Just when things were getting really interesting in terms of how the Ducks might progress, a new twist was introduced when basketball and track star Jordan Kent brought his size (6-5) and speed (10.41 100) to the table. From early indications the tenacious could be a quick study in learning some of those skills that his teammates already possess.

Oregon will open the season on Thursday, Sept. 1st in Houston against the University of Houston Cougars. The game will be carried nationally on ESPN2.

JFeeney's Notes (Saturday practice):

-After stretching, the offense and defense broke up into two units.

-The quarterbacks and running backs split into a smaller group and worked on practicing pitches. Crowton oversaw this. Meanwhile, the wide receivers worked on cutting and blocking.

-Next, the QB's and WR's joined up as the running backs worked on footwork. The theme here was short and quick. Colvin was the star of this drill, catching every ball thrown his way without any bobbling of the ball. Brian Paysinger was running hard and displayed good hands. The wide receivers as a group are BIG. Demetrius Williams was the smallest receiver on the field, and he is 6-2. Although Jaison Williams is the biggest when it comes to sheer size, Colvin stands out the most with an upper body like a tree trunk and huge arms. During this drill with short passes, Kellen Clemens looked great on the short ball but was a bit shaky on the long ball, overthrowing receivers.

-Next, the offensive skill players faced the defensive skill players. Once again, Colvin stood out with great hands and hard running. Dee Williams looked great too, but more on that later.

-Kickoffs. Matt Dragich, Matt Evenson, and one more (not Martinez) worked on kickoffs. This was mainly a drill to keep the players on-sides for kickoffs.

-Punts came next - Dragich will make Duck fans forget about Martinez. He was consistently hitting 60-65 yard punts into the wind. That was from where he was standing behind the line of scrimmage to where it landed. Of course, there was about 15 yards from him to the line of scrimmage.

-Next came the entire offense vs. defense in 11-on-11 action. Once again, the focus early on was on short and quick passes to get rid of the ball early and make sure that the ball is in a player's hands. The QB's looked excellent in this drill, getting the ball into the players' hands quickly. The emphasis today was on passing.

-The offense then opened up to include longer passes. ***The story of the day was the offense outplaying the defense, which usually seems to be the opposite early in practice. There didn't appear to be any confusion among the offensive players and they appear to be catching on quickly.***

Some player notes:

-Demetrius Williams was the star today. He looks very quick and caught every ball except one. He made some ridiculous cuts that left guys grasping at air. DWill looks fully recovered and better than ever.

-Jaison Williams has great size and speed but still needs to work on catching the ball. He has a knack for getting open but dropped several easy catches today.

-James Finley works very hard and gets pumped whenever he makes a good play. He was catching the tough ones and made the catch of the day on a diving grab on the sideline. He got up and smiled and waved at the fans. He appears to love it in Eugene and is a definite leader on the field.

Overall, it was a good practice, and the coaches seemed pleased. They corrected mistakes in a stern but encouraging manner. In summary, the offense outplayed the defense, Dee Williams and Colvin were the two stars of the day, and the wide receiver unit is bigger than ever.

(John Feeney contributed to this story)

eDuck Top Stories