Chip Kelly believes that Oregon's defense will be a great surprise to many people and the reason for his optimism lies with the team defensive leaders, Thurmond, T.J. Ward, Will Tukuafu, Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger.
Offensively Kelly mentioned quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is the starter and pointed out Masoli missed all of fall camp last season and learned the position as on-the-job training. Kelly believes that in the last four games of the season last year Masoli shined.
"If you watch him in the last four games of the year starting with the drive against Stanford that won the game for us," observed Kelly of Masoli. "How he played against Arizona, Oregon State in the Civil War and his performance in the Holiday Bowl where he ended up as the MVP, he is just going to grow from there."
Kelly also mentioned LeGarrette Blount, Ed Dickson, Jeffery Maehl, Jamere Holland, LaMichael James and Andre Crenshaw as players the Ducks have high hopes for.
"We're excited to get the season going," said Kelly. "We kick off and will find out how good of a football team we are on Thursday night about five weeks, exactly 35 days from now on the blue turf of Boise State."
Kelly fielded a question about his expectations for backup quarterback Nate Costa, and Kelly reiterated what he has said many times before.
"If there were one person I would never count out from three ACL surgeries it would be Nate Costa," Kelly said. "He's as tough a kid as I've ever had the opportunity to coach, both mentally and physically."
Kelly believes Costa will add depth to the position and more importantly push Masoli in practice to perform at the highest level possible.
"Competition brings out the best in everybody," remarked Kelly. "That's what our practices are all about, and the depth of our positions is about."
When asked about the importance of the Boise State game this year, Kelly indicated that the game will be a great test for the Ducks, especially in light of Oregon's 37-32 loss to the BSU at Autzen Stadium last year. Kelly described the Broncos as a "tremendous football team" with an outstanding home record.
"There is no other way we want it as a football team," admitted the first-year coach. "Our goal is to be the best and to do things better than they've ever been done before. If you are going to do that then you're out of conference schedule has to reflect that."
The Ducks also take on last year's second ranked team nationally, Utah on September 19th. In between the BSU and Utah games, Oregon will face Purdue, whom the Ducks defeated in overtime, 32-26 in West Lafayette.
Responding to a question about 1,000 yard runners and the spread offense, Kelly feels that his offense is a personnel driven offense. Ideally, Kelly wants a balanced offense.
"Ultimately we like to be a balanced football team," explained Kelly. "But you have to have every tool in the toolbox when it comes to playing the teams we play and you can't be just one-dimensional."
Kelly was also asked about his relationship with Phil Knight. Kelly indicated that Mr. Knight is a great friend and supporter of the University, and that he (Kelly) was glad Knight was on his side.
"We love Phil Knight," responded Kelly to the question. "Phil is an awesome person. He's a great supporter of our whole athletic department and the university as a whole. He's a great friend and is the number one Oregon fan, and the fact he's on our side makes me sleep a lot better at night."
Thurmond was asked by one of the USC faithful attending the media event what he thought about the USC game on Halloween Night. Thurmond felt the game would be a great matchup but quickly pointed out that Oregon's focus now is on Boise State. Thurmond then was asked about any new transfers that had caught his eye and the All-American corner back responded that LB Bryson Littlejohn and DT Terrance Montgomery had caught his attention during the spring workouts.
The Ducks open fall camp next week on Aug. 7th with Media Day, followed by the first practice of the four-week sessions.
Kelly Thinks Defense Will Surprise
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