Spring Football Drills Conclude Saturday in Portland

April 25, 2002

EUGENE - The University of Oregon's first step of preparations to defend its Pacific-10 Conference football championship concludes Saturday when the Ducks play their annual Spring Game beginning at 1 p.m. in Portland's PGE Park.

Tickets for the intrasquad scrimmage, which concludes four weeks of spring practice, range from $6 to $18 and may be purchased at PGE Park Saturday beginning at 9 a.m., with gates opening at 10 a.m.

Although Oregon has played the Spring Game in the Portland area on three previous occasions, including last year at Hillsboro Stadium, it marks the Ducks' first appearance in the downtown Portland facility since 1970 when they played California in the structure then known as Multnomah Stadium.

Head coach Mike Bellotti began the spring seeking replacements for six departing starters on offense and five on defense from its most successful team in school history, with Oregon completing last season with an 11-1 record and ranked second in the country. Six of those seniors were taken in last weekend's NFL draft, headed by Heisman Trophy finalist Joey Harrington.

While the school's eighth-year coach admits he has been unable to find answers for all the questions that remain, he is anticipating how some of those players still looking to attract attention will perform.

'For Saturday what I will be looking for is execution, excitement, enthusiasm and a chance to play before a live audience,' Bellotti said. 'I want us to look good as a team and I want the first-team offense and defense to be successful, and they should simply because of the way the teams are divided. But also I want them to execute and prove that they've earned that spot - that they know what to do, they know how to do it and as such, they can do it full speed.'

The format of the game will pit the first-team offense and defense against the rest of the team, although some players can be expected to switch jerseys to allow coaches to evaluate different players in different roles.

Junior-to-be Jason Fife and redshirt freshman Kellen Clemens are expected to take turns quarterbacking the first-team offense, while sophomore Scott Vossmeyer and walk-on Matt Kennedy will play for the White team. Fife and Clemens have risen to the top of the battle for the starting quarterback job, which isn't expected to be settled until the fall. Fife, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in last year's Spring Game, has combined to be successful on 10 of 22 passes for 88 yards and no touchdowns in the first two major scrimmages of this spring, while Clemens has completed 11 of 25 attempts for 114 yards, two TDs and one interception.

However the Ducks also have been without its top two receivers from a year ago - third-team All-American Keenan Howry and Jason Willis - who are both recovering from off-season surgery and will not play Saturday. Both will be 100 percent for the start of fall practice Aug. 10.

One area that Bellotti apparently has found an answer for is at one cornerback slot, where the Ducks are looking for replacements for all-conference honorees Rashad Bauman and Steve Smith.

'Where we set out to look at quarterback and cornerback - quarterback is still up in the air,' Bellotti added. 'At cornerback, Steven Moore has jumped out is a big way and I'm excited about that. But the other side, we still have some work to do and I think it won't be determined until these young men we have here get a chance to work on the mistakes they made this spring.'

One area of previous concern that is expected to become one of the team's strengths in the fall is Oregon's defense, which returns starters at four of the front seven positions that limited Colorado to only 49 yards rushing in the Ducks' 38-16 Fiesta Bowl win. Among those returnees are the team's second- and third-leading tacklers from a year ago, linebackers Kevin Mitchell and David Moretti, who accumulated 104 and 92 tackles, respectively. Mitchell, who is expected to see limited action Saturday despite missing the majority of spring contact drills due to off-season surgery, also led Oregon in tackles-for-losses (23) and quarterback sacks (6) last season.

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