Ducks Work on Masoli's Passing

Eugene -- Mike Bellotti indicated today in his weekly media conference that Jeremiah Masoli is back practicing after suffering an ankle injury during last Saturday's game at California. Back up quarterback Justin Roper may have some packages planned for him this week against Stanford, likely though Masoli will be the signal caller for the 12:30 game at Autzen Stadium.

"Obviously Jeremiah (Masoli) has to be healthy," said Bellotti of the decision on who will start against Stanford. "For him to be effective as a quarterback in this offense, he has to be able to move around. And if he can't, certainly that would affect our decision."

Bellotti felt it depends on how practice goes this week for Roper seeing playing time. The coach pointed out that the Ducks always prepare at least two quarterbacks to play in a game. The coaching staff feels Masoli is the best fit overall for this offense. They believe Masoli is improving but at the same time Roper did some things last week but it wasn't significantly better than Masoli in the staff's eyes to warrant a change at starter. Bellotti did credit Roper for coming in after standing on the sideline last week and making a contribution.

One of the areas that drew questions about Masoli was his passing. Bellotti feels that success in football games will help Masoli's development as a passer. The head coach thought Masoli had a great week of practice leading up to the California game. The Ducks intend to simulate more game like conditions into practice including a speedy pass rush so that Masoli can become more comfortable in the pocket.

"We're going to move the pocket and we're already in a spread offense that gives more sight lines and gaps to throw through," explained Bellotti. "Still he (Masoli) needs to get better with his comfort zone in the pocket, his understanding of protections and then the next step, timing of routes, in terms of when the ball has to be delivered."

Another question asked if Masoli is actually seeing the field well. Bellotti didn't think in some instances that his quarterback did last week especially when he was in the pocket.

If a running back has to trust his speed, then would a quarterback have to trust in his throwing ability and his receivers catching the ball?

"You have various schools of thought," answered Bellotti to the question. "Quarterbacks have to trust the protection around them. Their eyes come down to the protection then they are in trouble because they are not seeing the routes down the field. You have to see the routes through the defense. You have to recognize the defense and whether you hard focus on the defense and throw through holes in the defense to receivers for whom you are soft focusing on, or you soft focus on defenders and hard focus on receivers running through the windows."

Bellotti indicated that Masoli's injury took place in the first half of the game last week. Some of Masoli's throwing problems may have been due to the footing on the soggy field, the weather and a hurting ankle.

"He was not as effective, no question about it," observed Bellotti of Masoli's passing performance. "And we need to get him in my opinion more comfortable in the pocket. He's running a little bit too soon, which stresses the offense more than the defense because he's running over the top of protection sometimes."

Bellotti felt the keys this week against Stanford will be who throws the ball the best, weather and how the teams handle it and field position based on turnovers and takeaways. Last week the Ducks won the turnover-takeaway ratio, but lost the game.

"Anytime you play when the teams are seemingly matched it comes down to turnovers and takeaways and as we learned last week that just getting them is not enough," said Bellotti of the Stanford game. "You have to do something with them. Secondly, special teams create a lot of field position and certainly you are hoping it is positive field position and Stanford does a great job on special teams. We have our work cut out for us in that regard."

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