UPDATE: LSU suspends QB Jefferson, LB Johns
EUGENE - The Oregon Ducks are done with their training camp, and they will start preparations on Saturday to play LSU in the highly anticipated matchup of top-five teams.
"Let's fire it up," says Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who notes that his team's health is good and that the coaches are ready to officially pen their depth chart.
As far as training camp, he adds, "I thought it went good. With the youth, there's a lot of exuberance. We didn't have to spend a lot of time motivating them. ... Our young guys really progressed from a mental standpoint, because we'll have to count on them, especially from a depth standpoint."
Kelly emphasizes that the Ducks are not only getting ready for LSU, Sept. 3 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, but also for the grind of the 12-game regular season.
"This thing is a marathon," he says. "This is a long deal. If you put all your energy into getting excited for the first one ... you want to be a team of significance for the long haul."
UO-LSU will pit two programs that have made their share of bad offseason headlines. Well-documented about Oregon is the team's recruiting scandal concerning Lache Seastrunk, the running back who is headed now for Baylor; linebacker Kiko Alonso's second brush with the law; and QB Darron Thomas riding shotgun while Cliff Harris drove 118 mph on Interstate 5 - Harris drawing a team suspension for the opener.
The Tigers also have been investigated about their relationship with recruiting scout Willie Lyles. On top of that, quarterback Jordan Jefferson allegedly was involved in a recent bar fight, in which he reportedly kicked someone in the head. On Friday, police charged Jefferson and linebacker Joshua Johns in the case, and LSU suspended the two players indefinitely.
So, the LSU quarterback situation appears a bit up in the air.
"I'm not worried about who the quarterback is," UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti says. "In all due respect to Jordan Jefferson. I think he's a good player. ..." Instead, Aliotti says LSU's overall offense, similar to Oregon's in some ways, will be a handful.
Injuries have been few in Ducks' training camp, although receiver Josh Huff missed significant time.
Even though the Ducks lost 11 senior starters, half the starters returned, led by the likes of Thomas and running back LaMichael James.
A few positions were up for grabs, including at receiver and center. Newcomers, including JC transfer Rahsaan Vaughn, impressed at receiver. The touted De'Anthony Thomas excelled at running back/slot receiver and appears to be in position to contribute as a true freshman. Kelly wouldn't say where the center position competition stood, but signs point to redshirt freshman Hroniss Grasu as being the starter.
On defense, question marks remain at middle linebacker and cornerback - both because of suspensions. Alonso had the nod at middle linebacker in the spring, until his law troubles left him suspended indefinitely; Kelly hasn't said anything publicly about Alonso's status. Senior Dewitt Stuckey is a capable middle linebacker. With Harris out for the LSU game, redshirt freshmen Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill will likely see more action against the Tigers.
The Tigers, Kelly says, "will be the most athletic team we'll play this year."
He adds: "They're all really, really big. They've got size, speed ... as big and fast a group as you'll ever see."
So, does Kelly know anything about LSU's backup quarterbacks, if Jefferson doesn't play?
"I know their names," he says.
Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is looking forward to preparing for LSU's defense.
"Practice is fun and meetings are fun and it's all kind of leading up to something," he says. "And, we don't necessarily go 'T minus X days to LSU.' Because we still need time to prepare and get ready."