Sun out for first day of spring practice

The sun broke out in the Willamette Valley on Tuesday just in time for the first day of the Oregon Ducks spring workouts. The Ducks may have felt the effects of the sunshine as they conducted a practice that last about two and half hours and Oregon's head coach was pleased with the results. When Mike Bellotti walked out onto the practice field he commented on the good weather and at the conclusion of the session he was equally pleased.

"I'm glad the weather is cooperating, it is a great day," said Bellotti before practice started. "I think that adds a certain energy and bounce to everybody's step."

Bellotti's team is coming off a 10-2 season last year and although some big names in Duck Football have moved on, the 2006 Ducks are as deep and balanced as any team to wear the green and yellow. While each position is up for competition there is no doubt that talent level on this team should give fans much to be excited about.

"I think we're very excited to start spring ball," observed Bellotti. "Build on what we accomplished last year, fill in some holes on defense and continue to improve the offense."

As typical of a first day of spring practice there was no contact and team concentrated on drills, conditioning and learning some new plays. One question that might be settled is that Dennis Dixon appears to be firmly placed as the starter. Dixon started all four games in 2005 after Kellen Clemens was lost for the year and even though Brady Leaf saw significant playing time. For now Dixon is the starter and Leaf is the back up even though Bellotti left the door open by saying that he expects competition at each position.

Bellotti also gave some indication of what fans might expect next fall.

"Doing some things from a teaching standpoint offensively to enable us to run the ball better," Bellotti explained of the initial training session. "We won't really know that though until we put the pads on."

Running the ball more means that Budding stars Jonathan Stewart, Jeremiah Johnson and Terrell Jackson should be getting a fair amount of work. During the session all three showed good acceleration and speed. Both Stewart and Johnson are showing the effects of hard work in the weight room. Stewart recorded an impressive 410 pounds in the bench press and his physique showed it.

Bellotti commented on his budding star saying that Stewart learned much from last year and one of the coach's task is to ensure that the hard running Stewart learn to stop running when the play is done in order to avoid injury.

Two other players that caught Bellotti's attention were Matthew Harper and Jameel Dowling. Both are transfers and are capable of playing either safety or cornerback.

"I thought I saw some good things from the incoming DBs, (Jameel) Dowling and (Matthew) Harper," commented Bellotti. "Sometimes they might have fallen into some plays, but the were in the right place…it looked like they move well."

The two transfers were among six new players to take the field on Tuesday. Also on hand were wide receiver Derrick Jones, tight end Brandon Bair, offensive linemen Pat So'oalo and Fenuki Topou.

Several players have changed their number for spring ball. Cameron Colvin wears 3 instead of 80. Jeremiah Johnson is now 24 and last year his number was 20. Drew Larson wore 80 during Tuesday's practice.

Most of the practice time was spent with the team broken up by position and the session ended with a passing drill.

Bellotti reported that no one was injured on the first day of practice.

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