Spring drills should boost redshirt freshman's skill level

TACOMA Ñ Bring 'em on, Johnny DuRocher says.

DuRocher, the prep quarterback from Spanaway, Wash., who is headed to the University of Oregon, says he wasn't too disappointed when the Ducks signed two more QBs after he had committed to the school last May.

'I knew they were getting two quarterbacks, and I was the first,' says DuRocher, who is playing for Bethel High in the Class 4A state basketball tournament. '(Brady) Leaf came and I was, 'Whatever.' Then they signed (Dennis) Dixon.

'It kind of stings because you think, 'These guys don't think I'm good enough to do the job.' In reality, it'll just make us better. I'm going to do whatever it takes to play.'

All bets are off once the three prep stars square off as Ducks.

'This is a new step,' DuRocher says. 'We'll see what happens. High school is high school, nobody cares what you did.'

The 6-5 DuRocher will take the new step earlier than most. He and receiver Jordan Carey of Olympia, Wash., will enroll at Oregon for spring term March 31. They'll start spring drills April 5. With open spots at receiver, Carey has a chance to play right away. DuRocher hopes to get a jump on both his career and Leaf, who plans to enter in the fall.

DuRocher and Leaf, from Great Falls, Mont., are expected to redshirt this fall, but DuRocher will be the designated No. 3 quarterback behind Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens, holding clipboards and suiting up for games. The Ducks have moved Scott Vossmeyer and Andy Collins to other positions.

Dixon, the San Leandro, Calif., product who the Ducks closed on just before the February signing period, tentatively plans to 'grayshirt,' or sit out next football season to pursue a pro baseball career. He would enter Oregon for school and football in 2004.

'All three (quarterbacks) will be separated by a term or two,' coach Mike Bellotti says. 'It creates an opportunity for each to be their own person. Each, Johnny included, want to be considered special.'

Bellotti can't remember any other Duck players arriving early from high school, except for linebackers coach Don Pellum, more than 20 years ago.

'I asked them specifically, 'Are you ready for this? Is your family prepared for this?' ' Bellotti says. 'It takes a special kind of person to have the confidence and strength of character. They're giving up a lot, but it's an opportunity to gain, and high schools today have plans for kids to graduate early.'

Talk about the ultimate cure to senioritis. DuRocher worked this year to satisfy all core class requirements, cutting back on electives. He will return for graduation June 11.

DuRocher, Carey and basketball recruit Aaron Brooks plan to live together in Eugene this summer. DuRocher's Bethel team played Brooks' top-ranked Franklin High on Wednesday, with Brooks, the All-American point guard, coming out on top 71-55.

With family and friends in the Eugene area, DuRocher always preferred Oregon over the University of Washington. He visited the campus in December, along with receiver Garren Strong and defensive back Ryan Gilliam, and helped convince Gilliam to pick Oregon over his hometown school, Florida State. 'I saw video on him. What a blur. So fast,' DuRocher says.

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