October 22, 2008

Weekly Q&A with MB

Duck Sports Authority took the opportunity at Tuesday's press conference with local media to ask questions of Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti. The topics this week were wide ranging, from the season-ending injury to Andre Crenshaw to this weeks' rotation at quarterback.

DSA focused on two elements with its questions to the coach this week, one on offense and one on defense.

DSA: What is the situation at quarterback going into this weeks' game against Arizona State?

MB: Right now we are alternating with the first group Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper, and probably will continue to do so as long as it's competitive between those two, through Thursday. Probably make some determination on Friday or Saturday on who will play and how much, whether we'll use one quarterback or two, whether we will use two in a series rotation or we will use two within a series or we'll use one quarterback. And so obviously I'm being as vague as I possibly can be. The reality is that Justin considers himself to be 100 percent healthy. He's competing.

Analysis Of course coach is going to be vague at a Tuesday press conference even if he did know who would be the starter on Saturday. In this case, the staff has not determined how best to approach the QB rotation question yet, and have the luxury of waiting until Thursday to decide. Chances are they will go with Masoli because they want the running threat for the ASU game and believe he has made strides these last two weeks in his passing game.

MB: Jeremiah has done a nice job in my opinion in the time he's been the starter for us. He is probably a significantly better runner, but we've had some success with Justin. Justin's experience is probably still greater overall simply because of time spent in the program. We unfortunately didn't look very efficient throwing the football last game. We dropped five or six passes that probably would have made a significant difference in the game both perceptually and realistically. We have made this week and last week a huge focus on pass offense and pass defense, both sides of the ball in terms of working at that from a very competitive standpoint, good versus good every day. I think that we're showing improvement on both sides.

Analysis The passing game did look poor against UCLA, but coach makes the good point that dropped balls need to shoulder their share of the blame. Frankly, I'm at the 'what's up with that?' stage this year. We have seen way too many drops and have some questions about the wide receiver units' focus.

DSA: What do you expect to see from the ASU defense in terms of pressure?

MB: We've seen several games that give us some opportunity to what they've done against teams like Texas and UNLV and Washington, some similar offenses or offenses that contain similar things that we do. They're a combination. They're a man-blitz and zone-blitz team. They like five-man pressure. They like six-man pressure in the zone-blitz stuff. They're primarily a four-man front and certainly their choice of pressure, they do at times choose to play man-to-man, but they're primarily a quarters-type team. I don't expect any great amount of blitz or pressure than we normally see, partly when you run the option, that's a great controller for that. I think Jeremiah's game against UCLA, they're probably looking at that very closely and trying to decide where they want the ball in whose hands. We've also been fairly successful against them with the screen game in the past. All those things factor into (them) not being as aggressive man-to-man for fear of giving up the big play. What their choice is to do, they've had two weeks, so they could come out in anything.

Analysis Indeed the Sun Devils have a couple decisions to make, as all teams do who face Oregon's spread offense. Assuming they defend the passing game, they need to make a decision on the read-option whether to make Masoli keep or hand off to the tailback. UCLA always took away the running back, and ASU saw what happened. They will likely end up seldom blitzing because they will need to cover the deep part of the field in zone quarters with their four defensive backs. I thought it was funny how MB threw in that comment about the screen game (a great equalizer for sending pressure). He wanted to make sure ASU had to spend practice time this week practicing defending the screen by reminding them of past games.

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