Ducks Celebrate Christmas in San Diego

Dec. 25, 2000

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The Ducks hit the practice field for the third time in San Diego Monday afternoon, under clear blue skies and temperatures near 70 degrees.

The following are select comments and questions from head coach Mike Bellotti before practice.

Q: Talk about working out on Christmas Day, a unique situation for most people.

MB: 'I think it's a great for our football players - it's contact with people that you love (laughter). It's a great day and great weather, and we'll enjoy it. But seriously, I do know it's tough on the kids, and I tried to give them more time off last night and this morning, maybe some time to try and reflect. I can honestly say that I think our focus so far in the bowl practices on site has been the best ever. They've handled the situations in practice, stayed focused, and have come together as a team -- which can happen when you're on the road, and it's Christmas, and you have to. I've been very pleased so far. There's been times before I've said Christmas, what's that? We're happy to be here and happy to have the weather we've had so far.'

Q: Will you have a chance to put on the red suit later?

MB: 'Somebody will be in a red suit. There could even be two of us.'

Q: Talk about being in Southern California and the emphasis it has on your roster since probably many of the kids are from here?

MB: 'For us, it's a very important area. I don't know what the exact numbers are, but I guess about 65 percent come form California, and a majority of those are from Southern California. Overall, I think we have about 30 players from Southern California on our roster. Recruiting is a function of population and competition -- the closest most available opportunity for good, quality football players is Southern California.'

Q: Can you talk about the Leonard Davis-Saul Patu match-up. Davis seems like the biggest human I've ever seen.

MB: 'I've heard it's a 100 pounds difference. You've heard of David and Goliath, we're hoping that it repeats itself. (Davis) is a tremendous athlete because of his size and also his tremendous physical ability. Obviously, Saul is going to have to use his full repertoire of moves, techniques and scheming to try and be effective against a great player.'

Q: What does Matt Smith mean to this team after taking up football again three years ago after his minor league baseball career?

MB: 'He's the best hitting pitcher I've seen ... and I'm talking about football (laughter). Obviously Matt has brought maturity, leadership, proven performance to us. He does a great job being around the football -- making plays, key tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries. You don't find guys that discover ways to get to the football more than Matt Smith.'

Q: How would you evaluate the offense's performance and productivity this year?

MB: 'I think our numbers were down a little from what they've been, but they were still significant. When you win nine games, that's what matters the most. I think part of it is that often times we were in a situations where we were in the lead in the second half, and were more trying to run the clock as opposed to pouring on yards or points. The yards I don't care about, I honestly don't. We could get only 200 yards, but more points than the opponent and I'm happy. I do think points are important and I feel like at times, we weren't as productive as our special teams scoring in the past, but that's something I hope has been remedied.'

Q: How's LaCorey Collins hamstring injury coming along?

MB: 'LaCorey is probably going to come out in a jersey today and run around a little. The trainers thought we could do it yesterday, but I wanted to hold off. Something like a hamstring -- it's either healthy or it's not healthy, and not a lot of in-between. Not that I don't trust LaCorey Collins, but I don't trust very many athletes with making a decision where I'm going to try to take it easy.'

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