First Day in Pads Offers Few Surprises

Tuesday marked the first day the Oregon Ducks were in pads and it also was the first scrimmage of fall camp. There wasn't enough offense to keep track of and the defense played well as a group. It is unusual for a scrimmage to be held on the first day of pads, but what wasn't so unusual was for the defense to be ahead of the offence and an experienced coach careful to sound too optimistic.

"I thought the defense came up with some key turnovers that's extremely important something we wanted to improve upon," commented Oregon's head coach Mike Bellotti. "But when it happens to your own offense you aren't very happy about it."

The Ducks held a controlled scrimmage at the end of the scheduled workout and while it was called a scrimmage it was really the four-deep squads rotating through some simple plays. Each of the quarterbacks, Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon, Brady Leaf and Kyle Bennett had their chance to run at least two series of possessions. The Ducks also rotated running backs, Terrence Whitehead, Terrell Jackson, Jeremiah Johnson and Andiel Brown with the quarterbacks. Freshman running back Jonathan Stewart was held out of the contact because of a pulled oblique muscle suffered early in practice. While the offense had some good moments, there was also a number of turnovers including Clemens' very first pass that was picked off by senior cornerback Aaron Gipson. Terrell Jackson also fumbled a pitch, off-sides were called on the line and while it was frustrating for the head coach, he was also relieved that some of the early mistakes could be improved upon.

"Defense is definitely ahead of offense," said Bellotti of the practice. "I think that is good and l like the way our defense was flying around."

While no statistics were kept for the scrimmage, Bellotti pointed out that senior Terrence Whitehead showed leadership from the running back position. Bellotti mentioned several receivers as having made an impression on him including Garren Strong, Cameron Colvin, Demetrius Williams, Brian Paysinger and Dante Rosario. Bellotti mentioned that James Finley has yet to have a big practice and that Finley had missed one practice session because of dehydration and also to clear up some academic issues. Senior tight end Tim Day, who has been away from the team due to the death of his father, is expected to return to the team late tomorrow afternoon. Bellotti also mentioned one other receiver in a positive light, Jordan Kent. The basketball player-turned-football-player is still on the radar as a player Bellotti thinks could have an impact.

"Jordan Kent caught a pass and got tackled," observed Bellotti of Kent's first day in pads. "He showed he can do that."

The quarterbacks showed their depth and ability to run the offense. Despite the fact the defense is a tough, athletic group capable to stopping the run and pass, Bellotti felt the quarterback position in good hands. Each quarterback offers something significant to the team.

"They all bring a certain strength to the game," said Bellotti. "Kellen has the best overall knowledge and tremendous understanding, Dennis is the most electric and with the ball in his hands he's really a threat and Brady probably operates in terms of his ability level with the confines of the offense the best of anybody. I like all three of them they can really play."

While many expected to see the Ducks run solely out of the spread offense, it was not the case and there are good reasons for it. The Oregon offense in practice was using 2-back formations because the Duck defenders, while becoming experts at stopping a spread offense must keep up with how the rest of the conference opponents operate.

"We will do a lot of two-back stuff," Bellotti indicated. "One, because it is in our repertoire and two, because our defense needs to see it."

Bellotti spared few words of praise for the kicking game. While punting practice was done prior to the scrimmage, field goal kicking by Paul Martinez still needs work.

"We need to improve our special team we had an opportunity to kick several field goals and we missed two of the three and that is unacceptable," remarked Bellotti.

The Ducks will have Wednesday off in order to review film but when they come back the intensity of practice will turn up. While this last week may have seemed hot, humid and hard, the next few weeks will really become tasking, as the Ducks will hold daily doubles and next week will conduct nine sessions in five days. Bellotti mentioned that one change the Ducks have made in their practice routine is that they are now conducting conditioning at the beginning of practice rather than at the end. Bellotti felt that the players are better warmed up and that an added dimension of mental preparation is accomplished by having conditioning first. Health-wise, the Ducks have not suffered any major injury. Besides Stewart being held out, offensive lineman Palauni Ma Sun was held out because a hamstring. Both are expected to return to practice on Thursday (no practice on Wednesday.)

"Happy we are healthy (but) I'm not pleased where we are anywhere on the team," said a cautious Bellotti of the state of the team. "But early on we are showing a spark on defense."

Typically, this first scrimmage showed little in what the story might for the 2005. There is plenty of talent on the squad yet there is clearly much work for the Ducks to accomplish over the next three weeks. The first day in pads might be as expected, some good moments, some mistakes and a cautious but optimistic head coach.

eDuck Top Stories