Spring Hopes to Cure Last Season's Woes

Mike Bellotti is not at all happy with how the 2006 football season went for the Oregon Ducks. Starting Tuesday, April 3rd, he plans to do something about it when the Ducks start their 13th spring practice under his guidance. There will be a few new faces in the crowd this April but the main emphasis is getting the bad taste of a 38-8 loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl out of their beak.

"I thought we lost our edge, and that edge can be a combination of confidence and mental toughness," Bellotti said in a released statement. "We need to develop greater mental toughness. We need to create that through grueling, competitive events. We're going to change up some of the things we do in practice. There will be an emphasis on competing and creating more competitive situations."

The Ducks return 51 lettermen and 14 starters among the 90 players that are expected to be participating in the 15-session spring training sessions.

Bellotti indicated that two areas of concern to be addressed during the spring are the linebacker position and the lack of depth at the tight end position. While the Ducks will have at least four additional linebackers available during fall camp when the 2007 recruiting class arrives, in the interim a strong competition between veterans, squad members and walk-ons should take place in the spring sessions. OLB Kwame Agyeman and WLB A.J. Tuitele are returning starters from last season while John Bacon, Kevin Garrett, Jerome Boyd, Spencer Paysinger, Josh Thomas-Dotson, Garrett Easley, Mike McConnell, Erik Elshire and Riley Showalter will compete for playing time.

Two tight ends were among the 2007 signees however on the current roster, only Ryan Keeling has had significant game experience. Ed Dickson is also listed on the spring roster as a tight end but last year the versatile athlete saw playing time as a defensive end. The other tight end on the spring roster is walk-on Chris Divincenzo.

The focus of attention for many will be on junior running back Jonathan Stewart. The 5-11, 235 pound Lacy, Washington native was second team all-Pac-10 last season after rushing for 981 net yards last season and 10 touchdowns. Wide receiver Jaison Williams was honorable mention in 2006. Three defenders awarded conference honorable mention honors were rover Patrick Chung and cornerbacks Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond.

Seven players may see limited or no action this spring while rehabilitating from injuries. Those include defensive linemen Jeremy Gibbs, Cole Linehan and Simi Toeaina, wide receiver Derrick Jones, offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Max Unger (a second team all-Pac-10 player) and linebacker Jason Turner.

Two other defensive players that missed most or all of last season, cornerback Jackie Bates and defensive end Victor Filipe are fully recovered and expected to participate in all 15 sessions.

Three new faces that come from the 2007 recruiting class will be on hand are defensive end Will Tukuafu, 6-3, 285, offensive lineman Mark Asper, 6-6, 269 and wide receiver Drew Davis, 6-2, 202.

Bellotti indicated that Quarterback Dennis Dixon would be the starting quarterback followed by Brady Leaf and Nathan Costa. Two redshirt freshmen, Cody Kempt and Justin Roper will also take snaps during the spring. The headman also made it clear that the practice order will shift on a daily basis.

Two new coaches will be roaming the sidelines and involved in drills. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly will assume his new duties in April along with special teams Coordinator and tight ends coach Tom Osborne.

All practices are tentatively scheduled for 4:15 p.m. but are subject to change without notice. The 15 practice days are scheduled for April 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24, 26 with the annual spring game on the 28th. The spring game is tentatively scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. start time and will be held in Autzen Stadium.

eDuck Top Stories