Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Early Returns Are In

Asked the same questions post-practice for the hundredth time, Chip Kelly observed that a lot of guys look good in shorts and helmets. Today the Ducks put on shells and rachet up the intensity to eleven. By Friday they'll be in full pads, and there'll be a Competition Day. Saturday they go to two-a-days The storylines will begin to develop. The plots will thicken as the pads pop.

So far there have been some weird twists. Nate Costa, who is supposed to be the heady reliable senior who doesn't make mistakes, has throw six picks. Cliff Harris is wearing number 13 and practicing with the third team after a run-in with Coach Kelly on Monday. Harris led the Ducks last season in pass breakups despite playing half the season, and with questions at cornerback, they need him (or a couple of his competitors) to step up and harness his awesome athletic potential. He could be a lockdown cover corner and a four-year starter, the next WTIII or Jairus Byrd, perhaps better, or he could be an attitude bust-out like Holland or Herman Ho-Ching. I'd love to see him buckle on the chin strap and get serious, on the practice field and in the classroom, because he could be great. So far he has shown flashes of brilliance interspersed with alarming signs of unhealthy arrogance.

It's a fine line with cornerbacks. Out on the island, deep downfield against five-star opponents, with their every mistake replayed six times on the Jumbotron and all Saturday night on Sports Center, they have to be cocky and arrogant and have short memories to survive. But they can't go lipping off to the Coach, go all Terrelle Owens on their teammates. It takes unity and discipline to repeat as conference champions. There's not a lot of room for screw-ups, mavericks or loose cannons.

So far there are no major injuries, and around the web there have already been reports of disastrous losses at UCLA and Tennessee. The Ducks look fast and well-conditioned.

But Nate Costa has to start taking better care of the football if he wants to hold off Darron Thomas. And from the looks of things, DT had better keep working hard (I'm sure he will) if he wants to hold off Brian Bennett next year. So far the kid has shown some dazzling ability and a rocket arm. He's not a candidate to start this year of course--he weighs barely 175 and needs to redshirt--but he has all the tools to become an incredible talent. He played in a spread offense in high school and is picking things up quickly.

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