Sore Muscles Must Be Worked Through

Sunday afternoon was warm and pleasant for the spectators watching from the sidelines as the Oregon Ducks ran through practice. While some fans lounged on the green grass and some even brought their own beach chairs and sipped cool drinks, the 2002 version of Oregon football sweated and grunted under the strain of demanding coaches and a confidence found in a victory last January.

The practice was run in shells, that is the team wore their shoulder pads and helmets but contact was limited. After warm-ups and stretching the team broke up by positions and the respective coaches ran drills. Practice was capped off with an 11-on-11 drill, with the offense running a few basic patterns against the defense. Clearly, the scope of the practice was to add intensity to the routines. Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti was generally satisfied with the practice and the progress of his team so far.

"Overall I'm O.K, we're working hard," said Bellotti. "I think the kids come here with a purpose everyday."

Bellotti seemed to be most pleased with the defensive side of his team. Enthusiasm was high and the defensive unit displayed an air of confidence going through their various practice routines.

" I like our quickness I think our speed on defense shows up, they're picking up where they left off," remarked Bellotti referring to the Ducks dominating defensive performance in the Fiesta Bowl. " I feel real good about where they (the defense) are at."

Several players showed good physical ability during the practice. Bellotti mentioned a number of returning veterans and also some newcomers who demonstrated their skills and potential to help the Ducks seek a third straight Pac-10 title.

"Stevie Moore (junior cornerback) has done some nice things and Darrell Wright (senior defensive end) is in great shape and really coming off the edge well," said Bellotti. "Our people inside (on the defensive line) are going to do a good job."

Bellotti also cited senior linebacker David Moretti and junior linebacker Kevin Mitchell as having good showings along with newcomers David Dixon, junior, cornerback, freshman cornerback Aaron Gipson, freshman cornerback Marques Binns and freshman defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Bellotti was more reserved in his comments about the offense. He felt the timing was not as crisp as he would like to see and felt it was a matter of passing and catching the ball better. Senior wide receiver Keenan Howry did not participate in the passing drills, but Bellotti felt the offensive line needs to continue working on giving better protection to the passers. Bellotti did allow something that could explain the protection problems.

"I think sometimes too the speed and size of our defensive line puts a little pressure on the offense," said Bellotti of the 11-on-11 drill.

As the day ended, the team huddled together and then while most of the members departed some players participated in extra running and sprints. For some of the newcomers, they are discovering that Oregon football conditioning is a whole new level of commitment. Bellotti acknowledged that particularly for the newcomers, Sunday's afternoon practice was the fourth session in five days.

"They've been going double day practices so this is a tough time for them," said Bellotti. "It really is the point the fatigue and muscle soreness sets in, they have to work their way through it."

Oregon will open the season on August 31st at Autzen Stadium against Mississippi State. The Ducks will doubtlessly work through the soreness and continue their quest for success.

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