Dixon to lead Ducks against Cal

Last season the Oregon Ducks' bye week was at the start of the campaign and the season results (5-6) demonstrated just how sorely the bye week is needed midway through the season. Given the loss of quarterback Kellen Clemens last Saturday at Arizona, the bye week couldn't have come at a more opportune time this year for the 7-1 Ducks.

Oregon's head coach Mike Bellotti thinks that the next two weeks will give both Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf a chance to take extra repetitions in practice in preparation for the rest of the year.

"It's obviously disheartening to lose Kellen Clemens at this point," said Bellotti of the turn of events. "But it is somewhat exciting to see Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf, the quarterbacks of the future, they are going to get a jump-start on next year right now."

Clemens underwent surgery on Monday to repair his fractured left ankle in a 90-minute procedure performed at Sacred Heart Medical Center near the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. According to the Ducks' Team Physician, Dr. Bob Crist, a screw was inserted toward the top of Clemens' ankle to pull the fibula and tibia together as well as attaching a metal plate to aid the healing process of a spiral fracture in the fibula.

Bellotti indicated he visited Clemens yesterday at the hospital after the surgery and spoke briefly to his star quarterback. At one point, so many of Clemens' teammates came to visit him that the hospital asked that people not visit Bellotti expects to be able to sit and visit with Clemens in a week or so, once Clemens has recovered from the surgery.

Clemens was having the best season of his career. In 8 games he was passing for 2,406 yards on 185-of-289, 19 touchdowns, a completion percentage of 60.9 percent and a quarterback efficiency of 152.87. Clemens had already been invited to the Senior Bowl and was being considered for the Johnny Unitas Award as well as being mentioned as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. Once he is able to come back to practice, Clemens will still be part of the team.

"He will continue to be part of our program as soon as he can get back on the sidelines," Bellotti said during the Pac-10 media conference streamed on oregonlive.com. "He'll help coach our young quarterbacks and be a member of the team."

Sophomore Dennis Dixon, who had been Clemens' back up will take over as the starting quarterback for the California game on November 5th. Dixon has played in seven games this season and is 15-for-20, 130 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Dixon is an extremely explosive runner as well as an accurate passer and has caused many observers at practice to be impressed with his play. He has had success in two games going 6-for-7 passing against USC and 7-for-8 against Stanford. In practice he has been able to break off long runs in the option using his great speed and agility.

"He brings an electricity, he can take the ball and do a lot of things with it," described Bellotti of Dixon's skills. "He's an excellent passer and we'll run the same type of offense."

Leaf, is less mobile that Dixon but does have a great understanding of the offense and is known as a very accurate passer. H e will now be the back up quarterback. Bellotti indicated that now Dixon would get about 60 percent of the snaps in practice and Leaf 30 percent. Redshirt freshman Kyle Bennett will be elevated from running the scout team to 3rd string quarterback. Leaf has played in all eight games this season, mostly as the holder on point after and field goal attempts. However, he is 8-for-17 for 85 yards including two key completions in the closing moments of the Arizona game. Bellotti mentioned that there is a possibility that certain play packages might be considered in the future for using both Dixon and Leaf during games.

While the injury to Clemens may have some effect on what the Ducks intend to do during the bye week, surprisingly it will not have as much impact on practice as one might expect. Bellotti thought that his team may spend a few more minutes at practice and do some developmental drills, but overall the coach's plans for the next two weeks have not been drastically altered.

"We'll do a little more team stuff, a little more 7-on-7 quarterback development stuff then we normally would have done," described Bellotti of the bye week practice activities. "Probably practice 10 minutes longer than we have done before."

The depth of the quarterback position might be of question. Normally teams do not take more than three quarterbacks with them on a road trip and obviously one of the worst scenarios took place last Saturday when two quarterbacks were knocked out of action. Clemens of course broke his ankle and Dixon suffered a mild concussion. Bellotti mentioned that while Bennett has been promoted to the no. 3 quarterback, some receivers and running backs might take some snaps in contingency for plays that Bennett would not run. Ironically, a player that left the program last year, Johnny DuRocher, now with the Washington Huskies would have been in the mix of things had he decided not to leave the Ducks program. It has been speculated that DuRocher was unhappy with the fact that Dixon was promoted ahead of him in the fall of 2004 and that was the reason he transferred from the University.

"Obviously there is a quarterback that defected from us that would have probably been involved now (and) is not, and that's his choice," observed Bellotti.

The Ducks are off until November 5th when California comes to Autzen Stadium in a game that will be televised on ABC with the kickoff at 12:30 p.m. The University also announced that the Washington State and Oregon State games would be televised on Fox.

Oregon can finish the season with 10 wins, equaling the best regular season finish if the Ducks win the final three games of the season.

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