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Top 10 moments in Oregon's rise
April, 14, 2010
Apr 14
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Oregon has been in the national news a lot in the past year, starting with the coaching transition from longtime head man Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly. There have been a lot of good and bad headlines since then. It has been fascinating to see how the brand of Oregon football has been elevated so much in the past decade. And since we're focusing on the Ducks today on ESPN.com, here's a list of the 10 biggest moments of the past 10 years that helped turn Oregon into a national name.

(1) Joey Heisman, May 31, 2001:
The school made the bold move to put up a 10-story billboard in midtown Manhattan to tout not only their star quarterback, Joey Harrington, but also Ducks football.

"The whole concept was to create attention for Joey and the Oregon football program," Oregon director of media services Dave Williford told the Daily Emerald. "We certainly did that." Harrington visited the East Coast last weekend to see the billboard unveiled and tour the many media outlets there. Harrington's visit to Baltimore and New York included interviews with ESPN radio, ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated, along with a visit to the set of NBC's "The Today Show."

"It said to every player that came to Oregon, if you get yourself to the point where you're in the race for a national award, if you put yourself in the Heisman race, we'll put your face in New York," Harrington told reporters. "It definitely sent a message."

Yep, they certainly did. It doesn't even seem far-fetched now. I said it then, and I feel even stronger about it now: It was a shrewd move.

(2) Blowing out Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 2002
The Harrington-led Ducks might not have been able to catch Miami, which was about to finish out its perfect season by hammering Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, but Oregon (11-1) scored 38 unanswered points on a CU team that had just whipped the Cornhuskers. The 38-16 Fiesta Bowl rout helped the Ducks finish No. 2 in the country in the AP and coaches' polls, Oregon's highest final ranking in school history.

(3) Those wacky uniforms, June 25, 2006
The Nike connection has only put bigger fingerprints on the Ducks program in the past few years, and Oregon keeps folks talking with its array of funky new unis. From a 2006 press release:

[The] Ducks' game-day apparel will consist of four different colors of jerseys and pants to go along with three different helmets Oregon is expected to wear at some point during the coming season. But of greater importance is the advanced design and technology of the uniforms will help to diminish the weight of the uniforms by 28 percent when dry and help make them 34 percent lighter under wet conditions. The jerseys and pants also encompass a diamond-patterned grid on the shoulders and knees, respectively, to improve the durability of the product in areas susceptible to greater wear."

Last summer, Oregon announced that the material had become even lighter and that they'd added so much gear that they now had 80 possible uniform combinations. It may sound silly, but it certainly gets people talking, and more important, recruits seem to like the look.

(4) The LeGarrette Blount meltdown, Sept. 3, 2009
Not all of the attention is for positive things. And when the Ducks' starting tailback got into it at the end of season-opening loss at Boise State, "the incident" -- and the school's subsequent handling of Blount -- was all everyone seemed to be talking about in the first weekend of the season.

(5) Drilling USC, Oct. 31, 2009
Before this Halloween night meeting between No. 5 USC and No. 10 Oregon, no one had blown out a Pete Carroll team at USC. The Ducks, playing at a frenetic pace, rolled up 613 yards while sticking the Trojans with their worst loss since 1997. The game, which was shown on national TV, proved to be quite a showcase for Chip Kelly's scheme, as Oregon ran for 391 yards on a defense that entered the game with the fifth-best run D in the country (79.9 ypg). It also showed that the Ducks didn't miss Blount at all and paved the way for Oregon to win the Pac-10, ending USC's stranglehold on the conference title.

(6) Haloti Ngata signs, Feb. 6, 2002
The most coveted D-line recruit in the country, Ngata, a Utah native who had been rumored to be headed to either Nebraska or BYU, made it official and signed with the Ducks. It was a big statement to land a five-star. Ngata pushed his way into the starting lineup by the middle of his freshman season and had a big impact, providing toughness to the middle of the Ducks' defense and blocking a handful of kicks. In 2005, he led all Pac-10 D-linemen in tackles, was honored as a consensus All-American and later left Eugene as a first-round pick in the 2006 draft.

(7) Mike Bellotti finds Chip Kelly, Feb. 9, 2007
Few around the country had ever heard of the former New Hampshire offensive coordinator before Oregon hired Kelly. He had been named by American Football Monthly as one of the country's hottest coaches for putting together a ridiculously up-tempo attack at UNH, but that was nothing compared to the impact he made in his first year out West, where he sparked the Ducks to more than 38 points per game and 468 total yards per game, best in the Pac-10 and tops in school history. He also helped transform the inconsistent Dennis Dixon into a legit Heisman front-runner until a knee injury derailed his season.

(
Upsetting Michigan, Sept. 20, 2003
The No. 3 Wolverines came to Oregon to face the No. 22 Ducks and the biggest crowd in Autzen Stadium history. Oregon jumped all over them, swarming the touted Michigan running attack led by the country's leading rusher at the time, Chris Perry. Perry entered the game averaging more than 307 yards but was held to minus-3 on 19 carries.

(9) Running over Oklahoma State, Dec. 30, 2008
Or, more aptly, Jeremiah Masoli's running over an OSU DB. The highlight of the Ducks' quarterback trucking a Cowboys defender epitomized this Holiday Bowl game, in which No. 17 Oregon finished off the season with a statement win over No. 13 Oklahoma State, running for 307 yards while passing for 250 more. The game proved that this spread team could be plenty physical.

(10) Jonathan Stewart signs, Feb., 2005
Washington has long been one of the Ducks' big rivals, so snagging perhaps the top running back to come from that state, and arguably the top back in the country in that recruiting class, was quite a coup for Bellotti. ESPN rated Stewart as the No. 2 prospect in the entire class after he averaged more than 11 yards per carry in his senior season. In three seasons at Oregon, he ran for almost 2,900 yards and 27 TDs. He also set a school record with a career kickoff return average of 28.69 yards and ran two back for TDs.

RANDOM

• Really nice story out of South Bend. Massive Notre Dame O-lineman Chris Stewart has been admitted to Notre Dame Law School, Al Lesar writes:

Stewart, who already started taking graduate classes this semester, had the credentials for admittance. His 3.536 undergraduate GPA, while juggling the rigorous life of a football player, paved the way for entry. …

"I just got accepted (Monday)," Stewart said with a wide grin. "I went in to see the admissions rep to see how my application was going. I just happened to run into the secretary who had a package they were sending to my home. It was a spur of the moment. I just happened to walk in and they said, 'Welcome to Notre Dame Law School.'"

Then what?

"I talked to my mom," Stewart said. "She's a (retired) teacher. I told her, 'Thank you for making me do all my work.' She said, 'I never had to make you do it. You just did it.' Apparently I was always like that and never realized it."

Stewart's scope extends beyond the Irish practice fields and the university's bubble. Last year, precious vacation days were spent in Haiti learning the culture, helping when possible and developing relationships.

• Former blue-chip WR Deon Long, who had signed with WVU, is back on the market -- kind of. As Jeff Ermann reports, Long, regarded as one of the best postgraduate prospects in the nation last year at Hargrave Military Academy (Va.), was released by WVU with the stipulation that he not transfer to Maryland or Texas Tech -- the former because WVU and Maryland are scheduled to play each other during his years of eligibility and the latter because his former coach at Hargrave, Robert Prunty, was hired as Texas Tech's defensive line coach in February.

Virginia, Virginia Tech, New Mexico and Arizona are among the schools Long and his former high school coach, Craig Jefferies, have discussed looking into. But Long said he plans to appeal WVU's exclusion of Maryland in the release; such appeals are usually based on financial hardship. Long plans to enroll in his next school, wherever it may be, this summer, and will begin to take visits soon. He said he'll be patient in determining whether he still has a chance to transfer to Maryland -- assuming the coaching staff there offers him a scholarship, which would seem likely barring any off-field hold-ups -- rather than quickly choosing another college.

Long said he's not concerned about location of his next school, and that his decision to leave WVU was the result of him feeling out of place socially. But he also said he'd like to be close to home again, and that Maryland would be his clearcut No. 1 choice if he's able to earn a waiver of the restricted release. "I know a lot of people there. Javarie Johnson, Caleb Porzel, Kenny Tate," he said. "And it's home."

Long was the nation's No. 38-rated wide receiver last year.

• The chiseled Jeff Luc was one of the top linebacker recruits in the country last year, and he's already at FSU. Bob Ferrante checks in with him after the Noles' spring game.

"I didn't have butterflies -- I had dragonflies," Luc said. "But as soon as I stepped on the field, I felt like it was home. When I got out there, I just started playing."

Luc, a middle linebacker, combined with Nigel Carr to make the first tackle of the game. Luc also excelled in pass coverage, tracking down speedy wideout Bert Reed a few times. Part of the challenge for Luc and his defensive teammates is the new zone defensive scheme introduced this spring by new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. "The defense is real nice," said Luc said. "It's unbelievable; it puts you in the right position to make plays. That's what you always look for in the defense."

• As impressive as South Carolina DB Stephon Gilmore was as a freshman in 2009, watch for him to really shine this fall, colleague Chris Low writes:

"It was a good start, but I have a lot better feel about everything now and a better understanding of what it takes to play corner in this league," Gilmore said. "There were times last year I was a little unsure on plays, and I didn't react as fast as I needed to. I think I'll play faster next season and be able to make more big plays."

The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Gilmore will get his chances on both sides of the ball, too. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he wants to use Gilmore in the Wildcat package at quarterback at least two series per game. A quarterback in high school, Gilmore toasted Clemson in that package last season to set the tone for the Gamecocks' 34-17 win over the Tigers.

"He's so talented and does everything you ask of him," Spurrier said. "I don't think there's a position he couldn't play. He stepped in and started right away last year, and you don't see that in this league at the position he plays. And the truth is that we should have used him more on offense than we did last year."

• Don't bother making comparisons between new JC import James Carmon and Terrence "Mount" Cody, Kyle Veazey writes:

Carmon is pretty serious when he talks about the comparisons to the former Alabama defensive tackle, who played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College just like he did. "It's good publicity, but I don't want to send a message out that I'm trying to be like him," Carmon said. "That's why I didn't commit to Alabama, you know what I'm saying? I don't really like being compared to him because we're two different people."

How so?

"Look at me and look at him," Carmon said. "The weight shows. I'm more versatile. I think I can run. I can get sideline to sideline, I'm not just a gap-filler."

Keep an eye on Carmon. I'd heard a lot of good things about him, and he should be an asset to what is shaping up to be a very tough D-line.

• The speedy Andre Debose is also hoping to shed comparisons to an old SEC star (Percy Harvin) as he tries to make his own rep at Florida, Ben Volin reports.

• Onetime Oklahoma recruit Josh Jarboe is showing signs of living up to his recruiting hype at Troy.

• Pete Carroll started minicamp in Seattle and has two big, former college receiving stars named Williams with him. One is former Washington star Reggie Williams. The other is former USC standout Mike Williams, Clare Farnesworth reports.

Reggie Williams was a first-round draft choice by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004, the ninth pick overall, after setting UW records for career receptions (243) and receiving yards (3,598). He then caught 52 passes for the Jaguars in 2006 and had 10 touchdown receptions in 2007. But he had off-field problems in 2006 and 2009 and did not play in the league last season. "I'm just glad I had the opportunity to be out here and play," Williams said. "(This second chance) means everything for me and my family. It's just a gift from God that I'm allowed this second opportunity to play the game that I love, especially in my hometown. When I landed yesterday, I just asked the guy to crack the window so I could smell home. It's just kind of serene."

Mike Williams was the 10th pick overall in the 2005 draft by the Detroit Lions. But he caught only 44 passes for 539 yards in 30 games with the Lions, Raiders and Titans. His weight reportedly got as high as 270 pounds when he was with the Titans, but Williams checked in today at 235. "It's not a cakewalk at all. It's an opportunity," Williams said when asked about the Carroll connection. "I think I have the same opportunity everyone else here has. I don't think the fact I went to SC has anything to do with it.

Carroll has also brought in former USC LB Matt Grootegoed.

• Speaking of USC, Lane Kiffin has yanked Mike Williams' old No. 1 jersey away from CB T.J. Bryant and WR De'Von Flournoy, who now are wearing No. 38 and No. 81, respectively, Michael Lev reports.

"We had some numbers here that some people had that I don't know if they necessarily deserve," Kiffin said. "We've challenged our guys that if they're going to wear some numbers that mean something around here, like 43 and 1, you've got to earn them. After watching the scrimmage (Saturday), I didn't think those guys were operating at the level that they should to be able to wear those jerseys. So they're going to have to earn them back."

Kiffin didn't rule out Bryant and Flournoy regaining their old numbers. Nor did Kiffin dismiss the possibility of an incoming freshman (Robert Woods?) getting No. 1, with the caveat that he, too, would have to earn his keep.

• Auburn is putting together a strong O-line recruiting class and added another top prospect when Thomas O'Reilly committed. The 6-foot-3, 296-pound prospect is the fourth commitment for Auburn and second along the offensive line, joining Under Armour All-American Spencer Region. Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest also had reportedly made offers to the lineman, who is on the ESPNU 150 watch list.

O'Reilly had spent time with Region and another Auburn target, Reese Dismukes, during a visit to Auburn. "That was awesome," O'Reilly told AuburnUndercover.com. "They are both cool guys. They both want the same things I want."

All three offensive linemen intend to graduate early and enroll in January. Dismukes, an Under Armour All-America guard, plans to announce next Wednesday.
 

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[h3]Top 10 moments in Oregon's rise [/h3]

Oregon has been in the national news a lot in the past year,starting with the coaching transition from longtime head man MikeBellotti to Chip Kelly. There have been a lot of good and bad headlinessince then. It has been fascinating to see how the brand of Oregonfootball has been elevated so much in the past decade. And since we'refocusing on the Ducks today on ESPN.com, here's a list of the 10biggest moments of the past 10 years that helped turn Oregon into anational name.

(1) Joey Heisman, May 31, 2001:
The school made the bold move to put up a 10-story billboard in midtown Manhattan to tout not only their star quarterback, Joey Harrington, but also Ducks football.
"Thewhole concept was to create attention for Joey and the Oregon footballprogram," Oregon director of media services Dave Williford told theDaily Emerald. "We certainly did that." Harrington visited the EastCoast last weekend to see the billboard unveiled and tour the manymedia outlets there. Harrington's visit to Baltimore and New Yorkincluded interviews with ESPN radio, ESPN The Magazine and SportsIllustrated, along with a visit to the set of NBC's "The Today Show."

"Itsaid to every player that came to Oregon, if you get yourself to thepoint where you're in the race for a national award, if you putyourself in the Heisman race, we'll put your face in New York,"Harrington told reporters. "It definitely sent a message."


Yep,they certainly did. It doesn't even seem far-fetched now. I said itthen, and I feel even stronger about it now: It was a shrewd move.

(2) Blowing out Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 2002
The Harrington-led Ducks might not have been able to catch Miami, whichwas about to finish out its perfect season by hammering Nebraska in theRose Bowl, but Oregon (11-1) scored 38 unanswered points on a CU teamthat had just whipped the Cornhuskers. The 38-16 Fiesta Bowl routhelped the Ducks finish No. 2 in the country in the AP and coaches'polls, Oregon's highest final ranking in school history.

(3) Those wacky uniforms, June 25, 2006
The Nike connection has only put bigger fingerprints on the Ducksprogram in the past few years, and Oregon keeps folks talking with itsarray of funky new unis. From a 2006 press release:
[The]Ducks' game-day apparel will consist of four different colors ofjerseys and pants to go along with three different helmets Oregon isexpected to wear at some point during the coming season. But of greaterimportance is the advanced design and technology of the uniforms willhelp to diminish the weight of the uniforms by 28 percent when dry andhelp make them 34 percent lighter under wet conditions. The jerseys andpants also encompass a diamond-patterned grid on the shoulders andknees, respectively, to improve the durability of the product in areassusceptible to greater wear."


Last summer,Oregon announced that the material had become even lighter and thatthey'd added so much gear that they now had 80 possible uniformcombinations. It may sound silly, but it certainly gets people talking,and more important, recruits seem to like the look.

(4) The LeGarrette Blount meltdown, Sept. 3, 2009
Not all of the attention is for positive things. And when the Ducks'starting tailback got into it at the end of season-opening loss atBoise State, "the incident" -- and the school's subsequent handling ofBlount -- was all everyone seemed to be talking about in the firstweekend of the season.

(5) Drilling USC, Oct. 31, 2009
Before this Halloween night meeting between No. 5 USC and No. 10Oregon, no one had blown out a Pete Carroll team at USC. The Ducks,playing at a frenetic pace, rolled up 613 yards while sticking theTrojans with their worst loss since 1997. The game, which was shown onnational TV, proved to be quite a showcase for Chip Kelly's scheme, asOregon ran for 391 yards on a defense that entered the game with thefifth-best run D in the country (79.9 ypg). It also showed that theDucks didn't miss Blount at all and paved the way for Oregon to win thePac-10, ending USC's stranglehold on the conference title.

(6) Haloti Ngata signs, Feb. 6, 2002
The most coveted D-line recruit in the country, Ngata, a Utah nativewho had been rumored to be headed to either Nebraska or BYU, made itofficial and signed with the Ducks. It was a big statement to land afive-star. Ngata pushed his way into the starting lineup by the middleof his freshman season and had a big impact, providing toughness to themiddle of the Ducks' defense and blocking a handful of kicks. In 2005,he led all Pac-10 D-linemen in tackles, was honored as a consensusAll-American and later left Eugene as a first-round pick in the 2006draft.

(7) Mike Bellotti finds Chip Kelly, Feb. 9, 2007
Few around the country had ever heard of the former New Hampshireoffensive coordinator before Oregon hired Kelly. He had been named byAmerican Football Monthly as one of the country's hottest coaches forputting together a ridiculously up-tempo attack at UNH, but that wasnothing compared to the impact he made in his first year out West,where he sparked the Ducks to more than 38 points per game and 468total yards per game, best in the Pac-10 and tops in school history. Healso helped transform the inconsistent Dennis Dixon into a legitHeisman front-runner until a knee injury derailed his season.

(
Upsetting Michigan, Sept. 20, 2003

The No. 3 Wolverines came to Oregon to face the No. 22 Ducks and thebiggest crowd in Autzen Stadium history. Oregon jumped all over them,swarming the touted Michigan running attack led by the country'sleading rusher at the time, Chris Perry. Perry entered the gameaveraging more than 307 yards but was held to minus-3 on 19 carries.

(9) Running over Oklahoma State, Dec. 30, 2008
Or, more aptly, Jeremiah Masoli's running over an OSU DB. The highlight of the Ducks' quarterback trucking a Cowboys defenderepitomized this Holiday Bowl game, in which No. 17 Oregon finished offthe season with a statement win over No. 13 Oklahoma State, running for307 yards while passing for 250 more. The game proved that this spreadteam could be plenty physical.

(10) Jonathan Stewart signs, Feb., 2005
Washington has long been one of the Ducks' big rivals, so snaggingperhaps the top running back to come from that state, and arguably thetop back in the country in that recruiting class, was quite a coup forBellotti. ESPN rated Stewart as the No. 2 prospect in the entire classafter he averaged more than 11 yards per carry in his senior season. Inthree seasons at Oregon, he ran for almost 2,900 yards and 27 TDs. Healso set a school record with a career kickoff return average of 28.69yards and ran two back for TDs.
 
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