In 2001, Oregon football was on top of the world as far as Duck fans were concerned. Oregon finished…
Summary of Bellotti's phone conference
Bellotti indicated that both senior Jason Fife and sophomore Kellen Clemens would see playing time against the Bulldogs of MSU and that both players have earned the right to play. Bellotti is not worried about which one of the players emerges as a starter because he feels playing both quarterbacks now, gives the Ducks the best chance of winning. Does that mean that if one player gets a hot hand he will be removed because of a scripted game plan?
"We're going to be flexible," said Bellotti. "For somebody within that (the game plan) that has a hot hand."
No starting quarterback has yet to be named. Bellotti further mentioned that he might not name a permanent starter until later in the season.
The running back position is a bit more settled. Sophomore Terrance Whitehead will be the starter against MSU, though the Oregon mentor revealed that two other backs, junior Ryan Shaw and freshman Chris Vincent will be used in certain situations. There may be times in the season that the Ducks will use all three tailbacks during a game, but Bellotti reemphasized that Whitehead is the main ball carrier.
"Terrance Whitehead has separated himself from the group," observed Bellotti. "He's a step faster and more knowledgeable and comfortable with the offense."
The Oregon offensive line will start at left tackle, junior Adam Snyder, at left guard, junior Nick Steitz, at center, senior Dan Weaver, at right guard, senior Joey Forster and at right tackle, junior Robin Knebel. Junior Mike DeLaGrange will also see considerable time rotating with Knebel at right tackle.
"They are a veteran group with experience and athleticism," noted Bellotti.
Senior Steven Moore will carry out punt return duties. Moore actually returned punts last year against Mississippi State at Autzen Stadium.
Bellotti feels that the Oregon defensive line will be a factor against Mississippi State. The temperature and humidity differences between Starkville and Eugene in the month of August will have an effect and the headman stressed that the depth of the defensive line will come into play. Oregon will address the hotter temperatures by a regime of hydration and proper nutrition. Experts have told Bellotti that it takes nine days to acclimate to the weather in Mississippi, and Bellotti points out the Ducks don't have that much time. Bellotti mentioned that the team has worked in the heat of the day in Eugene, and has really done everything they can do to prepare for the heat and humidity.
"For a three-hour period," said Bellotti. "We will play as hard as we can."
Bellotti also confirmed that Nike would provide the prototype cooling vests the Ducks are using to MSU. The vests are designed to keep the player's body cool, particularly in a hot climate like Mississippi. The Ducks and Bulldogs will share an air compressor that will be used to inflate the bladder-vests.
There have been a number of changes within the coaching structure of Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have a new offensive coordinator from Michigan State, Morris Watts and a new defensive coordinator, Ron Cooper, formerly the defensive backs coach at Wisconsin. The Ducks coaching staff has been watching tapes of Michigan State, Wisconsin and Mississippi State in order to glean an information regarding schemes or patterns. Bellotti noted that there were a number of changes in the Bulldogs team from a year ago. Quarterback Kevin Fant will start for MSU. Last year he did not participate against the Ducks as he was forced to sit out the game due to a NCAA infraction. Bellotti likens Fant to Clemens in his style of play and called Fant a very accurate passer. Bellotti also noted two of MSU's receivers, senior Justin Jenkins, 6-1, 210 and junior flanker Ray Ray Bivens, 5-11, 176 as excellent receivers that could create problems for the Ducks. Citing the problems the Ducks experienced in the second half of last year, Bellotti expected to the Ducks secondary to be tested, though he feels Oregon is much improved.
Kickoff for the game with MSU will be at 6 p.m. and the game will be carried on ESPN2.
To listen to the complete conference from www.oreognlive.com click here.
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