Oregon Ducks: 2009 Position Battles
On a day when it has been announced that Mike Bellotti will step down as head coach of Oregon and move into the Athletic Director role at the university, it seems a fitting time to go over some key position battles that will take place this spring.
It will be Chip Kelly's first spring as the head football coach for the Ducks.
Quarterback—Jeremiah Masoli (Junior), Justin Roper (Junior), Nate Costa (Junior), Darron Thomas (Sophomore), Chris Harper (Sophomore)
This race seemed a lot more open before last year's Civil War. Masoli played masterfully in both that game and the Holiday Bowl to the point where it's probably now his job to lose.
Roper has the experience, Costa (assuming he's finally healthy) has the pedigree, and Thomas and Harper have the athleticism to run the spread effectively. As I said though, the edge has to go to Masoli, but that doesn't mean this won't be a fierce spring competition. Look for Thomas and/or Harper to red-shirt.
Running Back—LaGarrette Blount (Senior), LaMichael James (Freshman), Andre Crenshaw (Senior), Remene Alston (Junior), [Bryce Brown (Freshman)???]
Blount is still facing a team suspension, but assuming he is reinstated before the Ducks open at Boise State, he should be the unquestioned starter. James, with his speed, will make things interesting, but even if he doesn't start, should find a good amount of playing time.
Crenshaw and Alston should remain as fine backups. Brown announces his intentions on Monday. If he commits to Oregon, all bets are off and we should have quite the battle for playing time.
Wide Receiver—D.J. Davis (Junior), Jamere Holland (Junior), Jeff Maehl (Junior), Aaron Pflugrad (Junior), Lavasier Tuinei (Sophomore), Tyrece Gaines (Junior), Rory Cavaille (Senior), etc.
Who starts and who comes off the bench for Oregon at receiver is little more than formality as they often line up three or four wide for most of the game, which means playing time for many. I look for Davis and Holland to get the most consistent playing time, but Maehl and Pflugrad will get their looks in the slot as well.
The 6'5" Tuinei transfers to Oregon and I believe will have three years of eligibility left while highly touted JC transfer Gaines will only have two left if and when he reports to spring drills. All in all, this will be a relatively inexperienced batch but has the potential to be a special group.
Defensive Tackle—Tonio Celotto (Junior), Simi Toeaina (Senior), Conrad Davis (Junior), Hayden Piper (Junior), Blake Ferras (Senior), Terrance Montgomery (Junior), Mike Bellagamba (Senior)
Both defensive tackle positions seem to be fairly wide-open going into spring. Celotto, Toeaina, and Ferras are the three most likely candidates it would seem for the two spots at this point, even though Celotto is still officially listed as an End.
With Brandon Bair and Wil Tukuafu both returning at End this season, it might make sense for the 275-pound Celottoe to move inside.
Cornerback—Talmadge Jackson III (Junior), Willie Glasper (Senior)
Replacing Jairus Byrd will be a tough job. Jackson or Glasper should be the man come August to attempt to do so. Jackson was last year's top reserve defensive back and should get the best look here.
However, he could easily be pushed by the once highly touted Glasper, who has never come close to the expectations placed on him when he arrived in Eugene four years ago. This will be his chance to finally prove he was worth all the commotion.
Of course there will be other position battles in addition to the ones listed here. Kelly will have his hands full in his first season as Head Honcho.
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