July 7, 2008

Bellotti discusses QB's

The Oregon Ducks were one of the best teams in the country in 2007 with senior Dennis Dixon at the helm. Climbing to #2 in the national polls while absorbing season-ending injuries to its receiving corps, the Ducks could not the spate of injuries at the quarterback position.

Following Dixon's much-publicized ACL injury, backup quarterback Brady Leaf ran the team for only a few plays until he too ended his season with an injury. Nathan Costa, who otherwise would have battled Leaf for the backup job, was on crutches rehabilitating from surgery. That left the job to two redshirt freshmen, Justin Roper and Cody Kempt, who battled but lost when handed the reins in Arizona.

The Ducks could not find any offense the next game against UCLA (wasting a brilliant defensive performance) but given two weeks to prepare for the Beavers, were able to drop 31 points on them in an overtime loss. With both Leaf and Dixon graduating, the Ducks looked to identify a starter in spring ball. Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti did not feel spring answered his questions.

"When you talk about tweaking, there is still some tweaking to be done at quarterback. With spring ball, I don't think that question has been answered in terms of who is going to be the quarterback."

While unable to participate in contact drills during the spring as a precaution to protect his knee surgery, Nathan Costa was accurate with his passing and probably emerged tenuously at the top of the depth chart.

"Nate Costa we like a lot," Bellotti remarked. "He did some things two ago that we really liked, yet he didn't get a chance due to the rehab to get any live reps this spring. He's throwing the ball well. He did a good job there. Still, I think we have to see it happen in the fall."

The Oregon Coach was reserved with his praise for the star of the bowl game, Justin Roper.

"Justin Roper did not build on the foundation he had created with the Civil War and the Bowl game, although I think he's still a developing and maturing athlete. Because of that he's still in the hunt."

Added to the mix via transfer was Jeremiah Masoli, who arrived in time for summer workouts and has a background in a spread-oriented offense which could prove valuable. Bellotti indicated no intention of redshirting the junior college transfer.

"Jeremiah Masoli is a newcomer that we signed due to the question marks and inconsistency at the quarterback position. He will compete for playing time immediately."

True freshmen quarterbacks Chris Harper and Darron Thomas both graduated from high school early and arrived in Eugene in time for spring practices. Coach Bellotti saw nothing in spring that thrust either candidate to the top of the charts.

"The young quarterbacks, Chris Harper and Darron Thomas, will be really good. They would probably be best served for their careers by redshirting, but we may not be able to do that. It really depends on how much they learn and mature from this point on. They were two young men in spring ball who normally would be in high school. Yet their experience here is going to help them for next year."

Of the two freshmen, Chris Harper is perhaps the most likely to play as a true freshman due to the special set of skill he exhibits.

"He's really good with the ball in his hands. He needs to rework, rebuild really, his throwing mechanics. But his ability to make plays in this offense is there already. He's a physically imposing guy at 6'2 ", 235 pounds and he runs very well. So we'll see."

Duck fans by-and-large are not proponents of a multiple quarterback system, and neither is the Duck coaching staff. Coach Bellotti did not exclude the possibility however.

"We have some options but again, whether it is a one-man job or multiple player position we'll see what happens. With what we run it can be, but certainly we would like to anoint somebody and let them run with it. It will be interesting. I think we will have great competition and we will benefit from that competition."

Regardless of what quarterback emerges during the fall, stay tuned to Duck Sports Authority for details.

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