Clemens In The Wings

This might be a pivotal fall for redshirt freshman quarterback Kellen Clemens. With the departure of Joey Harrington to the Detroit Lions, for the first time in three years there is no incumbent for the signal-calling job at Oregon. Should Clemens lose the job to fourth-year junior Jason Fife, he may be made to wait two years before he can assume command.

During Clemens brief time in the program he has progressed extremely well. He earned his stripes running the scout team last year and emerged on the same level as Fife last spring only to fall a little behind comparing his performance to Fife's in the Spring Game finale. He enters fall camp listed as the No. 2 quarterback. The Oregon 2002 Media Guide states Clemens' potential as "exciting" and describes him as a "very athletic individual who tends to be at his best when he's on the move."

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has indicated that he is looking forward to and even counting on a very spirited competition this fall between Clemens and Fife hoping both players will push each other to higher levels of performance for the team's benefit.

"I'm looking to earn as much playing time as I can, push Jason if he stays in front of me and help the offensive system in any way that I can" said Clemens. "This is definitely going to help out the team."

Clemens calls it "a friendly competition." He points to he and Fife's personal friendship including hanging out and playing golf together among other activities.

"There's no hard feelings between either one of us," said Clemens. "Whoever does emerge as the number one guy, the other guy's going to tip his hat and say 'nice job,' but at the same time, he's still going to go after him, be nipping at his heels the whole season. That's eventually going to make that quarterback better which is going to make the team better."

So where does Clemens have an advantage over Fife?

"I think each one of us brings something different to the table," said Clemens. "Jason obviously has experience on me. Our playing styles are a little bit different. Jason is a little bit more comfortable in the pocket probably than I am. I kind of like to get out to make things happen."

Clemens is confident he knows what he has to do to improve his game and push Fife harder.

"I need to work on the mental aspects of playing college football, getting some experience, getting some repetitions with our offenses," said Clemens. "As far as game time situations, making quicker decisions, reading defenses, and staying in the pocket a little bit more. No matter how good you are, there is always a lot things you can improve on when playing quarterback."

And who's the better golfer?

"Jason by far," says Clemens. "He's (better) by at least 10 strokes."

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