Ducks Will Keep An Eye On Locker

Oregon's Mike Bellotti held his first formal media conference of the 2008 season on Tuesday and described Washington's Jake Locker as a tremendous athlete, quarterback and competitor. The Ducks and Huskies kick off the season with a game at Autzen Stadium on Saturday evening starting at 7 p.m.

"He is, in my opinion the most difficult weapon to defend in Division I football," Mike Bellotti said of Jake Locker. "He's faster than you think and possesses a very strong arm."

The high praise for Locker is not something Bellotti gave out as generous coach-speak. The Oregon coaching staff sweated out Locker's performance last year in Seattle when the Husky quarterback threw for 257 yards and four touchdowns and was the leading Husky rusher with 78 yards in a game the Ducks won 55-34. Bellotti felt the Ducks must be aware of where Locker is on every single play when Washington is on offense.

Bellotti also indicated that the two-deep roster that was made public yesterday includes the starting line up that will probably be stable the rest of the season.

One of the surprises of the roster was the inclusion of freshman Garrett Embry as the back up to starting wide receiver Jaison Williams. Bellotti indicated that Embry was elevated in the roster for a number of reasons, including the fact that junior Ellis Krout had been suspended for the first game for violation of team rules. The head coach didn't specify what those rules were.

"Garrett is one of the best blockers, a very physical receiver," said Bellotti. "We think he can help us immediately both on offense and special teams."

A subject of much speculation this year so far is the depth of defensive tackle. Bellotti indicated that he would like a three or four man rotation at the tackle position. Right now the immediate rotation would be Michael Speed, Tonio Celotto and Blake Ferras.

"Michael (Speed) is probably the most consistent player but has the least size," Bellotti said of the defensive tackle rotation. "Tonio (Celotto) is the most explosive (but) has missed some practice time, Blake Ferras is the most stable in terms that he has practiced the entire time."

Bellotti isn't sure just yet if Speed or Celotto will go in first, it will depend on the game situation if the Huskies are running more or passing. The coach would like to see a three or four man rotation at the defensive tackle position.

The headman mentioned that Justin Thompson has not yet enrolled and therefore could not comment on his status other than to say Thompson is awaiting his final grades to receive NCAA eligibility and admission to the University.

Reviewing the just-completed fall camp, Bellotti felt his team came out relatively healthy with the exception of Nate Costa, who has been lost to the team for 8-10 weeks due to a damaged meniscus in his left knee.

Bellotti believes the attitude of the team throughout camp was outstanding.

"I think the attitude with this group of young men was awesome" explained Bellotti. "It was really the best I've ever been around in terms of handling double-days (practice) the difficulties, the boredom, the stress, the tedium and all that. They made it fun for everybody."

In Bellotti's view the Ducks as a group have a purpose and are on a mission.

"We have great leadership," said Bellotti of his squad. "I was pleased to see Patrick Chung and Max Unger get re-elected as team captains by their peers. I was also pleased to see Nick Reed and Jeremiah Johnson join them.'

The coach went on to say that Chung, Unger, Reed and Johnson are all very good workers and leaders, plus they care about their teammates. Bellotti thought that from the coaching standpoint the camp met the requisite amount of work both from a physical nature in terms of testing stamina, toughness, and durability. Scheme wise things were accomplished and decisions were made on who is needed to play this season.

Last year 10 true freshmen were played, however this year no more than three would be used.

Notes: Bellotti said that at least a couple of official visitors will be at the game on Saturday.

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