Boise far from players’ minds as the Ducks kick off fall camp
Lights. Cameras. Practice.
The start of the 2009 football season officially got underway Friday with media day, and the team is ready to make good on its No. 14 preseason ranking in the coaches’ poll.
“We’re excited,” said first-year head coach Chip Kelly. “Summer conditioning was good as it has ever been. The senior leadership was tremendous and now we’re going to see who can play some football.”
It’s been a long summer for the head coach, who likes to spend the time between spring practices and fall camp visiting campuses and watching football. This year he found that as the leader of a big football program, people are less likely to open their doors to him.
“There’s about nine schools in the Pac-10 we probably can’t visit,” Kelly said jokingly. “There’s still a few that you can if you know you won’t get matched up with them any time soon. Mostly it’s just general ideas and philosophy, that’s about it.”
However, with just 24 days until the Ducks finally lace up against the Boise State Broncos, Kelly and the team have backed off their summer motivation of the Blue Turf, saying they’re just ready to get back into pads.
“I’ve been waiting for the last two weeks,” defensive back Walter Thurmond III said. “I’m ready to go full go again.”
“Personally, I’m just thinking about practice,” linebacker Eddie Pleasant said. “Truthfully everyone has been thinking about Boise because it is our first game. But coach has done a good job and keeping them out of our heads and focusing on what we got to do at practice. When the time comes we’ll be thinking about them, but not until then.”
Kelly cites too much to do in too little time. He can’t be concerned with Boise State until his team is ready to go.
“We’re focused on today; that’s it,” he said. “We can’t focus on Sept. 3 yet. We know we have a tremendous schedule, but we can’t focus on that yet.”
There are a lot of things to focus on. After beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Holiday Bowl in December, the Ducks had to say goodbye to 12 starters on both sides of the ball: six on offense and six on defense. The biggest hit came on the two lines. On the offense, Max Unger, Fenuki Tupou and Mark Lewis signed with NFL teams. And on the defensive line, both starting tackles are gone, as is All-American defensive end Nick Reed.
“Our fourth starter on the offensive line could be kind of a question mark, and obviously we have to replace a tremendous football player in Nick Reed,” Kelly said. “But I’m excited for who we have there. I know we’ll be prepared going into Boise State.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount isn’t worried, either.
“We’re not going to have to worry about the defense,” Blount said. “With our guys it’s not even a concern. On the offense, we know what we are capable of doing and we know we can put up points on any team in the country. No one can stop us from scoring.”
Bold words, but the entire team believes it. Blount says they’re aiming for the national championship.
“We’re just trying to take it all the way and play for a championship,” he said. “I’m setting personal goals and team goals. We are a strong team with a strong bond. As long as we all have each other’s backs, we’re going to excel.”
That attitude makes its way all the way to the head coach, too. Kelly says even though there are games yet to be played, the team is thinking about perfection because any other mindset just isn’t acceptable.
“There are 119 teams in Division I college football,” he said. “And I guarantee that none of them are thinking that they’re going to be mediocre … There’s no one that has higher expectations than me and the team. I’m not making any predictions, but we believe we can win every game.”
Whatever the outcome, the 114th season of Oregon football should be an entertaining one for fans if the team lives up to its potential. The first test is opening day, Sept. 3, in Boise, Idaho.
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