Roper or Kempt?

Eugene -- Let's face it, the question about the Oregon Ducks now comes down to a couple of basic questions – how will (fill in the blank) do at quarterback? You have two options in filling in the blank. One option is Justin Roper and the other is Cody Kempt.

Mike Bellotti, Oregon's head coach is not saying who will be the starter against South Florida at the Sun Bowl on December 31st, but he is saying that both Justin Roper and Cody Kempt are getting better. The two are becoming more familiar with the offense as they continue to practice in preparation for the contest in El Paso, Texas later this month. Each practice, each day, the two redshirt freshmen are becoming more relaxed and familiar with an offense that was thought to be the best in all of college football. Of course they had a great view of the offense from the sidelines as they watched Dennis Dixon weave his magic on the field, but Dixon is now on crutches (while recovering from surgery last week to repair that damaged knee) and it is Roper and Kempt's team now.

The Ducks are on a mission with the two neophyte quarterbacks, get them practice snaps and make sure the two know how to protect the ball.

"We are looking for consistency," said Bellotti of Roper and Kempt's play in practice. "They are doing a much better job daily, practice, day-to-day. (Doing better) really avoiding negative plays. Both are doing better in that regard, understanding how to protect themselves and how to protect the ball. That's are whole mission is to try to simulate game speed and conditions, again with the intent of protecting the football."

Roper is taking a few more repetitions in practice but that doesn't mean he's the starter or that Kempt is lagging behind. In fact Bellotti makes a point of saying that both have an "equal opportunity" at the position.

According to Bellotti, Roper has the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks on the field and sometimes that arm strength can work to the team's disadvantage as receivers sometimes don't have time to adjust to a harder thrown ball. That's something Roper is working on, but for both just the fact that they are the center of attention is something they had to get used to.

"Practice has been a lot better," confessed Roper. "It's been a lot calmer for me, as I know what I'm doing now as I have some experience."

Kempt agrees and believes the more reps he gets the better things are going to be. Kempt is a confident young man and has a very positive outlook on what the future has in store for him and compared to a couple of weeks ago, he's feeling much better about things. During the Oregon State game, Kempt suffered a slight concussion, but he's now "100 percent" and ready to go.

"The comfort level is much better," said Kempt. "The game is slowing down and things are going really well. The more reps I get, the better I get each day."

Is there any sense of rivalry between the two? If there is, no one is saying so and both seem happy to have the other to rely upon.

"It's a great advantage to have another great player to help you out because we both see different things," stated Kempt about playing with Roper. "So we'll talk to each other about what we saw, what we didn't see and what we can improve on. We watch film together and I think it is a very big advantage to have someone like Justin to work with."

The Ducks will continue game preparation for the Brut Sun Bowl this week. The team will separate for Christmas and players are going to be allowed to travel on their own from home to El Paso after Christmas Day. The coaches and staff will depart for El Paso on Dec. 26th.

Bellotti noted that Jonathan Stewart would be held out of practice until Wednesday. He also indicated that Brandon Bair has a sore shoulder, as does Casey Matthews. At this point, Bellotti feels it is a 50-50 proposition whether Mathews plays in the Sun Bowl.

Bellotti would not speak directly about recruiting but did mention that he thought it possible that the Ducks might have at least one junior college transfer and two true freshmen enroll for Winter Term in January. Once players are enrolled he can make further comments.

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