July 18, 2008

Will the Ducks use Harper and Thomas?

For true freshmen Darron Thomas and Chris Harper, spring could have been a time to relax and have fun as lame duck seniors in high school. Hopefully they still had fun because they did not relax as both graduated early and arrived in Eugene in time for spring football camp.

Oregon coaches could not be more pleased when high school recruits graduate early and enroll at the University in time for spring practice. During fifteen sessions, they get a significant taste of what it takes to play with the Ducks.

"The interesting thing is, they are here and they already have a practice routine under their belts," Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti observed. "They know what to work on. Prior to this they would not have. They would be guessing at what we would ask them to do."

As Coach Bellotti pointed out, it also gives them an idea of what to work on between spring and fall camps, significantly increasing their chances of playing as a true freshman.

"Now it's a matter of how much they improve between spring and fall. Their improvement should be tremendous," Bellotti predicted, "because it's the first time they have ever been coached at this level. This is nothing against their high school coaching, but meaning now in system."

As is the case with many dual-threat quarterbacks who enter college, throwing the football is not their strongest suit.

"Both are very good athletes," said Bellotti. "Both are probably the best athletes at their position. There are certain things they need to work on, repetitive accuracy, arm strength and seeing the field.

Coming in as highly touted running quarterbacks the year Dennis Dixon transitioned to the professional ranks, the two young guns were bound to draw comparisons.

"Darron is already as big as Dennis Dixon," Bellotti stated. "He's 6'3 and 204 or whatever and Dennis graduated at like 202. Chris is a physical athlete who could play many places on the playing field. Now we have to work on the mechanics of throwing the ball."

The Oregon Head Coach noted that Dennis Dixon was a quarterback who showed up as a passer and graduated as a dual-threat player.

"The interesting thing about Dennis was that when he got here he was a passer," reminded Bellotti. "Dennis wanted to throw the ball and did not want to run. We had to create the understanding in him that when you went through your first two reads, it was OK to run the ball."

From Bellotti's perspective, Chris Harper definitely arrived in Eugene as a running quarterback with the athleticism to be an effective passer.

"In the spring with Harper, at the first sign of trouble, he wanted to tuck it and go," said the Head Coach. "He was very successful at that in high school and he was successful with it this spring. But we need to throw the ball better and he will. He knows it and he understands it and is already working on it, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done there."

Something that comes as no surprise is the fact that the two newcomers need to study the game in-depth at the college level.

"They both need to go underground. I mean go in The Cave," Bellotti began, "lock the door and watch film with a very discerning eye. They've got to watch film with the intention of reading defenses, understanding various reads, what we're doing at the line-of-scrimmage and making their reads," he continued.

When asked by Duck Sports Authority if either player could be in the hunt for the starting position, Coach was somewhat dubious.

"I would never say never."

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