Competition Heating Up

As a light sprinkle fell on Tuesday's practice at Pape Field, the action on the field was fast-paced and hotly contested. With only 11 days left before the season opener against Washington on August 30th, there are still many position battles to be decided.

Arguably the most compelling position battle taking place in fall camp thus far is the battle for number one a top the quarterback depth chart. The main players, Nate Costa and Justin Roper, have gone back and forth in previous weeks, with Costa appearing to have the decidedly upper hand. Yet, since last Saturday's scrimmage (with Roper performing very admirably and Costa struggling to establish a rhythm) it seems as if the battle for number one is as tight as ever. Today, both Costa and Roper were seen working with the first team and both performed about the same in 7-on-7's and 11-on-11's. Costa made some nice plays today, spreading the ball around to guys like Terence Scott, Aaron Pflugrad, and Ed Dickson; slowly moving the offense up the field. Roper wasn't as consistent, but provided more big plays with his arm as he hooked up with Scott and Jamere Holland on a number of impressive throws 25-30 yards downfield. While Costa is definitely the better runner, he doesn't provide as many big plays compared to Roper. Conversely, Roper isn't nearly the athlete Costa is, but he has big game experience and seems to be gaining confidence and poise when in the heat of the action.

"We would hope that one could get it done," commented Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti when asked if he'd consider playing two quarterbacks to start the season. "I think that certainly if there is other things that a second or third quarterback bring to the table, that gives us another way to attack somebody or create another preparation headache for opposing defenses, then certainly we'll consider that.

Another battle that has drawn a large measure of attention is the one at free safety as well. While no expects T.J. Ward to realistically relinquish that spot before the beginning of the season, it seems as if redshirt freshman, Javes Lewis is doing everything he can to make sure sees the field in some way, shape, or form this season. Today, Lewis was seen playing center field very well; breaking up passes and laying hits on receivers that came in to his area. He has drawn rave reviews from Coach Bellotti and Oregon Defensive Coodinator Nick Aliotti already this fall camp, but Oregon Secondary Coach, John Neal, seems to be the most pleased with Lewis' development.

"He's a redshirt freshman who is well ahead of the curve and I expect a lot out of him," said Neal regarding Lewis. "He's really smart and very competitve and he can play multiple positions...he's a one rep guy, when he makes a mistake, he knows why and he understands why. I'm very pleased with him."

Notes: Andre Crenshaw was back today in pads after straining his Achilles' last week. He was wearing a yellow jersey which limited his contact today, but he appears to be close to being full-go by possibly the end of the week. Chris Harper, in addition to playing quarterback, was seen once again running routes with the receivers and lining up in the backfield at running back during 11-on-11's today. He made a number of nice catches and flashed the same kind of great speed and agility with the ball in his hands which is becoming commonplace whenever he takes the field. Tomorrow's practice is tentatively scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

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