Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sipping from a Firehose of Information

Kenjon Barner's thumb is in a hard cast. and LaMichael James spent the first half hour of practice in the rehab pool. He wore a red jersey at practice and walked with a noticeable limp. But I'm not worried. Oh no, I'm not worried. My wife taped a picture of the Old Spice Guy on her bathroom mirror, should I be worried? Opening Day is 19 days away. The scrimmage today has been downgraded to a practice, with no score kept and no officials. I feel like the firehose has blasted me in the face. On 95.5 The Game Mike Jorgensen says he's optimistic about this team, much more so than most years, but does his optimism include Remene Alston as the starting tailback, backed up by two freshmen and a walk-on? Is it time to hire faith healer Benny Hinn as assistant offensive coordinator? Let's hope not.

The quarterback derby is reportedly still too close to call in most quarters, and I have to wonder if it isn't time for one of the guys to take the Duck by the bill and distance himself from the other, start winning the job outright. This team has awesome potential, despite a few hiccups and glitches in the early going, understandable for the tenth practice of fall camp, but it needs a clear leader, someone to lead the team in a chorus of "Lean On Me." Maybe Coach Kelly should settle the tie with a karaoke contest. Sing it like you mean it and make it your own, Nate.

According to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, recent Duck verbal commit Jerrard Randall escaped from a bad background and pernicious influences to become the third-best quarterback recruit in the country. He recently deleted a My Space page that showed someone posing with two guns and listed Michael Vick as one of his heroes. Randall has a 40-inch vertical leap and runs a 4.4 forty. He passed for 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 1,074 yards and 18 scores as a high school junior. He and his family see Oregon as the perfect place for him to get away from Miami and get a fresh start. In the last year he's raised his grade average from 2.0 to 2.6, and his teachers picked him as one of forty to seniors to serve on the school's leadership council. I'd say give the kid credit and don't lump him in, don't prejudge him by the bad behavior of others, but after Jeremiah Masoli, incoming Ducks have to get a short leash on character issues. Let's hope Randall keeps going in the right direction. He was so excited by the atmosphere, coaching and facilities at Oregon that he's declining to take any other recruiting visits.

At practice Blake Cantu and Lavasier Tuinei had big days, and that's an encouraging sign for the Duck receiver corps. The front line starters there are three seniors, but Davis and LT have to go to the next level (there's a lot of potential for them to do so) and someone has to emerge to provide depth in that group. Hoffman is the gritty guy with the work ethic; Cantu, Huff, Lowry and Dungy have talent but no experience. And they all have to live by the words of position coach Scott Frost, "No block, no rock." In the Oregon offense, which thrives on one-on-one matchups at the perimeter, receivers' downfield blocking is the difference between a catastrophic knee injury (Jeremiah Johnson in the WSU game, 2008) and a 53-yard touchdown run (LaMichael James in the Civil War, with Ed Dickson pasting the Beaver force man).

Most days I like to wax optimistic, but today I have the preseason jitters. A football season is a delicate thing. It can be undone by a bent-back thumb, a high snap or a tweaked knee. Even with talent and character and a spirit of winning the day, there are always obstacles to overcome. With only 19 days to go to kickoff I'm in a fit of Lou Holtz Poormouth Disease, and I wonder if it's time to downgrade expectations along with the scrimmage.

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