Spring workouts start Tuesday afternoon

Football is back on the campus of the University of Oregon as the Ducks begin 15 practice sessions starting Tuesday and culminating with the annual scrimmage to be held on April 29th starting at 2 p.m. It's Head Coach Mike Bellotti's 12th year working his team during the month of April and this year 51 returning lettermen including 15 starters are among the 85 student-athletes expected to be on hand. There will be a number of new faces on the field and some position changes among the veterans.

Spring workouts are scheduled for every Monday (with the exception of April 3), Tuesday and Thursday throughout April, as well as the first two Fridays and the final two Saturdays of the month.

Probably the biggest questions of the spring is who will be the starting quarterback, will the running game be elevated, will the defensive secondary be up to the level of last year's 10-2 team and who will replace Haloti Ngata?

Quarterbacks Dennis Dixon or Brady Leaf (both juniors) who both played significant time last year after Kellen Clemens was lost because of a broken ankle. Dixon started of the final four games of the season including the 2005 Holiday Bowl against Oklahoma and had a sensational performance in the 56-14 crushing of Oregon State. Leaf however, finished three of those games including leading the Ducks in two come-from-behind wins over California and Washington State. Leaf also was the signal caller in the dramatic fourth quarter against Oklahoma that saw the Ducks' comeback fall short when Leaf was picked off with 33 seconds to go in the game. Oregon lost the contest 17-14.

Sophomore Kyle Bennett is the third quarterback on the roster.

Sophomores Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson and Terrell Jackson could be the most talented trio of running backs on a Duck roster at one time. Stewart was spectacular last season returning kickoffs and led the country in kickoff return average (33.7 yards) as a true freshman including two returns for touchdowns.

The entire starting offensive line returns led by senior Enoka Lucas at center. Geoff Schwartz and freshman All-American Max Unger are the tackles while Palauni Ma Sun and Josh Tschirgi are the guards. Two new faces that are expected to compete for playing time in the trenches are transfers Fenuki Tupou and Pat So'oalo. Other offensive linemen include Jermaine Randolph (senior), Mark Lewis (sophomore), Jeff Kendall (sophomore), Simi Toeaina (redshirt freshman), Jon Teague (sophomore), Sean Cullen (junior), Jacob Hucko (sophomore) and Levi Horn (redshirt freshman).

One of the strengths of last year's team was the talented and deep receiving corps. Seniors James Finley, Kyle Weatherspoon and Jordan Kent comes back after a solid year. Along with juniors Cameron Colvin, Garren Strong, Brian Paysinger and sophomore Jaison Williams the Ducks can spread the field with tall and fast pass catchers. New comer Derrick Jones is expected to turn heads with his world class speed.

Other wide receivers are senior Drew Larson, senior Andrew Murphy, junior Ryan Erro, redshirt freshmen Rory Cavaille and Nicolas Dahlen.

Brandon Bair, a tight end that has been on a religious mission will finally take the field on Tuesday along with Dante Rosario (senior), Dan Kause (senior) Ryan Keeling (sophomore) and Ed Dickson (redshirt freshman) at the tight end/H-Back position.

Defensively, the biggest question is who will step in for departed Haloti Ngata. Junior David Faaeteete sophomore Cole Linehan saw significant action last season along with sophomore Ra'Shon Harris and red-shirt freshman Thor Pili will challenge for the defensive tackle position. Senior Nuvraj Bassi returns from a religious mission to add depth to the tackle position.

Senior Matt Toeaina, who started all 12 games last year at tackle will be given a long look at defensive end this April. The other defensive ends include Darius Sanders (senior), Victor Filipe (senior), Nick Reed (sophomore), Michael Speed (sophomore) and Don Phelps (redshirt freshman).

A number of players will be assuming new positions. Senior Chris Vincent sophomore Jerome Boyd and redshirt freshman Kevin Garrett will move to outside linebacker, listed on the Oregon roster as strong safety. The trio joins senior Jon Pope at the position.

Two new faces will appear in the secondary. Transfers Jameel Dowling and Matthew Harper will see time at both cornerback and safety. The two will compete for playing time with corners Jackie Bates (junior), Wally Thurmond (redshirt freshman), Willie Glasper (redshirt freshman). The free safeties are JD Nelson (senior), Ryan DePalo (junior) and Titus Jackson (redshirt freshman). The rovers are Parris Moore (senior), All-American Patrick Chung (sophomore) and Jairus Byrd (redshirt freshman).

Linebackers are listed as Brent Haberly (senior) A.J. Tuitele (junior), Jason Turner (senior) Chris Mulvanny (senior), Blair Phillips (senior), John Bacon (sophomore) Tucker Callahan (redshirt freshman) and Erik Elshire (sophomore).

The kickers include senior Paul Martinez (place kicker), sophomore Matt Evenson (place kicker), redshirt freshman Morgan Flint (place kicker), senior Matt Dragich (punter) and senior Aaron Knowles (punter).

The long snappers are junior Eric Stimer, sophomore Chris Sima and redshirt freshman Mark Sunga.

Stewart recorded one of the most impressive off-season performances in the weight room when he bench pressed 410 pounds and set a new record for running backs in that event. He also had a power clean of 385 pounds plus was hand-timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.34 seconds. Three other players had impressive times in the 40 (hand held). Boyd recorded a time of 4.33 seconds. Paysinger had a 4.34 and Vincent was clocked at 4.35.

Phillips had a squat of 405 pounds while DePalo and Pope recorded 313 and 374 pounds respectively in the power clean. Big poundage in the power clean was also recorded by Matt Toeaina (368) and Jaison Williams (341).

Four players will be participating under restricted conditions while rehabilitating from off-season surgery including Nelson (knee), Chung (shoulder), Haberly (foot/ankle) and Kendall (wrist).

Sessions are tentatively scheduled to begin at 4:15 and start times are subject to change.

Initial Spring Roster from www.goducks.com

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