Bellotti and Leavitt Talk to Media

El Paso, Texas -- University of Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti and the University of South Florida Head Coach Jim Leavitt held a media conference this morning at the Hawthorne Inn in El Paso regarding the upcoming 74th Annual Brut Sun Bowl.

Jim Leavitt spoke first and indicated that he has high regard for the Oregon Ducks especially pointing out the Oregon defense as "outstanding." In Leavitt's mind, going to the Sun Bowl is a big honor and the fact his team is playing Oregon makes the event even more special.

"Certainly for us, the Sun Bowl is a great opportunity," said Leavitt of the game. "Being able to play a Pac-10 team as strong and visible as Oregon, what Oregon has done is a great challenge."

Leavitt also praised the Ducks' running back Jonathan Stewart.

"Stewart is such a good running back," said Leavitt of the Ducks' leading rusher. "We know that is a guy of real focus. He led the Pac-10 in rushing and we know that is going to be a big factor."

Mike Bellotti then took the podium and complimented South Florida and Leavitt on the progress and achievement the program from Tampa Bay has made.

Bellott talked about how balanced the Bulls are, led by quarterback Matt Grothe. Bellotti compared Grothe to Florida's Tim Tebow and Washington's Jake Locker, stating all are primary rushing threats and accurate passers.

The big question regarding the Ducks is who will be the starting quarterback and what it the progress of both Justin Roper and Cody Kempt. Bellotti wouldn't divulge who the starter would be but felt both have made progress in the last five weeks.

"Both of them have gotten so many more reps," observed the Oregon headman of what Roper and Kempt have done in practice. "The hard thing obviously is simulating game speed."

Shying away from an issue that came up last year at the Las Vegas Bowl, Bellotti said he thinks that South Florida has the players that would stack up very well to the Pac-10 and he compared South Florida with two teams the Ducks faced in previous bowl games, Colorado and Texas.

Last year, Bellotti drew some criticism when he said he felt BYU would not be among the Pac-10 elite if the Cougars were in the Pac-10 conference.

The forecast for tomorrow's game is 62 degrees and sunny.


Bellotti said the Stewart will not be at 100 percent but is likely to be playing with same intensity he did against Oregon State when he rushed for 163 yards on 39 carries.

Walter Thurmond will be in a cast in the game after suffering a thumb injury three weeks ago.

Casey Matthews is definitely ruled out for the Sun Bowl with a shoulder injury.

Bellotti indicated that there would be some new wrinkles in the offense. Some things that the Ducks had prepared to use in the Oregon State game but did not, and some totally new plays.

The team will walk around the Sun Bowl this afternoon at 12:30 p.m.

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