The Ducks moved through a series of situations and many players were rotated into both the offensive and defensive units. The defense was playing without five of the top six linebackers, as junior Kevin Mitchell, senior David Morretti, senior Garrett Graham, sophomore Ramone Reed and junior Erik Chaney were held out of the action.
When asked about the status of a starter for one the cornerback positions, Bellotti said that he and his coaching staff will review the film of the practice but he did cite the play of freshman Aaron Gipson and sophomore Charles Favroth. Both players had a good scrimmage and the decision about who will start will be made next week.
A bright spot during the scrimmage was a long punt return for a touchdown by senior Keenan Howry. Howry was back in pads today after nursing a nagging injury, but he was right on track as he caught a punt in about the same position and returned it into the end zone as he did against Oregon State in the 2001 Civil War. The return looked so easy in fact, Bellotti was asked if it was a real return.
"He (Howry) might have made it look like touch football," said Bellotti. "It was live and he was a little quicker, he has a knack for those (things) just like he proved last year."
Bellotti also indicated he was pleased with the kicking of place kicker Jared Siegel and punter Jose Arroyo. Both displayed good leg strength. Siegel was very strong in kicking field goals while Arroyo kicked high, hanging punts. Adding to the kicker's performance was the punt return by Howry and consequently the special teams were awarded praise by the head coach after the scrimmage.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bellotti indicated that junior quarterback Jason Fife was able to set himself apart in the competition for the starting quarterback spot.
"Jason Fife has separated himself," said Bellotti. "Although, I will say this I was very pleased with (reshirt freshman) Kellen Clemens performance today and some of the things that he did."
Both Fife and Clemens showed good arm strength and the ability to run the ball and take a hit. Just before a break in the scrimmage, Fife was hit hard out of bounds. Some sideline spectators shuttered at the hit but not Fife.
"It's good to know I can take a pop and get back up smiling," said Fife.
Bellotti also noticed the toughness in Fife and mentioned after practice that his junior quarterback is the type of player who can take a hit and keep coming back.
"Jason is a tough, physical player," indicated Bellotti. "There is a part of him that always wants to be on the field."
Fife felt the offense played much better and that he along with his teammates is ready to start preparing for Mississippi State. Fife felt the offense was crisp and was able to move the ball. On Friday afternoon, the many weapons of the Oregon offense were at Fife's disposal and by all indications on the field not much will appear different from last year's extremely potent offense. Fife is clearly the man in charge and he is showing a calm demeanor, though there are a couple of things he is still working out. One is that his offensive line is very ready to start in earnest and finish up fall camp. Fife said he though the offensive line had a lot of bumps and bruises and he wants them at full strength.
"They are my boys," said Fife. "I want to keep them happy."
One other area that Fife has addressed to himself as he looked around the newly expanded Autzen Stadium is how he will react in the opening game. Fife did see some limited action last season, but this year he will be running the show.
"I'm the kind of guy that has to stay cool when I'm playing," said Fife. "It's going to be kind of hard with all this energy flowing through this place (Autzen Stadium)"
Autzen Stadium is known as a rowdy venue for opposing teams and the addition of over 12,000 seats will do nothing but add to the bedlam that is game day in Eugene. For his part Fife is much more relaxed now than he was two weeks ago. During the last two weeks Fife had his good and bad times, but with a couple of very good practices Fife has been able to bounce back and have a strong finish to camp.
The Ducks have been known for their balanced offense during Bellotti's eight years as head coach at Oregon. This year will be no different for the Ducks, as there is considerable depth at running back. Junior running back Onterrio Smith has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Bellotti would like to have a situation like last season when Smith backed up Maurice Morris and both ended up rushing for over 1,000 yards each. Bellotti thinks the top three backs are Smith, senior Allan Amundson and freshman Terrence Whitehead. Bellotti thinks that all three offer some special qualities and envisions times and situations when either Amundson or Whitehead could be carrying the ball.
Fife may have summed up the beautiful sunny day by saying the offense was able to move the ball and score and of course that is the most important thing an offense can do. Fife who has a bright outlook and is a quick wit had an easy reply to the question of what he thought about the size of the Oregon defensive line.
"You start drooling," said Fife. "Hey, it's three and out and you get the ball back."
Duck fans will also be drooling at the possibilities if Oregon can return to that glory it experienced last season. The Duck faithful will have an opportunity to meet the team tomorrow (Saturday, August 24th) from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Moshofshy Center. Autzen Stadium will also be open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.