In an offseason filled with turmoil, the Oregon Ducks are looking forward to putting all distractions behind them and getting back on the field.
It’s just Chip Kelly’s second season as the head coach of Oregon football, and (I’m sure) if you ask him, his time in the media has been for all the wrong reasons. The state, which used to be home to the once known “jail blazers,” has some people touting the Pac-10 favored Ducks as the state’s “jail birds,” after the most recent string of run-ins with the law,
Although harsh, the statement is hard for one to argue.
Heisman hopefuls Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James both had their chances hit by a major roadblock last May when the teammates, who so often stood together on the sideline, were standing together in a courtroom.
While Masoli and James experienced the bulk of the negative headlines in the offseason because of their star statures, they were only two of nearly a dozen players who encountered legal trouble.
The Ducks started fall camp with a very different look than the end of 2009, with Jeremiah and his burglary counterpart Garrett Embry dismissed from the team and suspensions of four other players.
One could argue that a different look coming off a blowout loss to Terrell Pryor and Ohio State in the Rose Bowl isn’t such a bad thing.
This season the Ducks open at home on September 4th against New Mexico. Most athletes will say in the midst of off the field issues the best way to get passed things is to return to playing.
The Ducks are no exception.
The start of fall camp, arguably the most dreaded four weeks of the year, came as a relief for the Oregon players.
“It feels good to get out and play again. These guys have been through a lot and I think we can finally move past things on the field," Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews said.
In what was described as some of the most competitive and upbeat practices he had ever seen, Oregon coach Chip Kelly loves the new direction the Ducks are going. Just announced earlier this week, Kelly told reporters that sophomore Darron Thomas will be leading that new direction at quarterback
Thomas, who had been battling with senior Nate Costa for the starting job since spring ball, got the nod Friday as the season starter. Although many people believe Oregon will fall into a two-quarterback system as they have in years past, Coach Kelly proclaims this year will be a one-man job.
While one can only predict what will happen throughout the season, it is now certain that Thomas will be under center come week 1.
The Ducks, who became accustom to distractions this past year, will need to be focused with an early game against Tennessee, and yet another daunting Pac-10 schedule.
Duck players will tell you they have learned from their off the field issues, but the question remains: Have they learned from the early season defeats suffered in each of the last two seasons?