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Clemens gears up for spring quarterback tilt

UO sophomore gets pointers from former Duck Danny O'Neil

EUGENE Ñ Andy Ludwig has quite a string going. The University of Oregon offensive coordinator has coached three married senior quarterbacks in recent years ÑÊDavid Carr and Billy Volek at Fresno State and now Jason Fife for the Ducks. Fife got married last weekend in San Diego.

'I got two years to find somebody,' jokes Kellen Clemens, the sophomore from Burns who is vying with Fife for the starting job at Oregon.

Clemens played most of the 2002 Seattle Bowl after Fife started and performed poorly. Coach Mike Bellotti has declared the quarterback position open, and the competition should be fierce when spring drills begin April 5.

The locker room seems to be divided on which quarterback to back, Clemens says.

'It's a touchy time,' he says. 'Ultimately, you're going for team unity. We're a close-knit group, but É it's going to be a long spring.'

Clemens says his relationship with Fife has not soured, though.

'I was a little curious to see if anything would change,' he says. 'It hasn't. We've lifted and run together, and we have 7-on-7 drills three times a week.

'There's no animosity. No stabbing each other in the back. There's utmost respect.'

While Fife lounged someplace warm with his bride on his honeymoon, Clemens returned to Burns to build fences, work the family farm and visit friends.

Clemens has been working on his footwork and the 'intricacies' of playing quarterback, receiving tutelage from former Duck Danny O'Neil two or three days a week. 'My knowledge of the quarterback position isn't what it should be,' Clemens says.

Wounded Duck

Defensive end Devan Long hopes to be back this spring but only for noncontact drills. Long suffered broken bones in his face in a March 1 attack in Eugene. Long says he and teammate Tony Salazar were walking home from a friend's house when a man jumped him from behind at about 2:30 a.m. near an apartment complex on East 15th Street.

The man fled and some days later committed suicide, according to authorities.

'I just remember talking to a friend, then waking up in the emergency room,' Long, a sophomore from Anacortes, Wash., told The Eugene Register-Guard.

Long had five titanium plates inserted in his face to stabilize a broken jaw and nose. He lost 20 pounds in the two weeks after the incident and planned to stay in Eugene during spring break to gain the weight back.

Long says he did not know the alleged assailant, Eric Dylan Jones, 25. According to Eugene police, Jones' parents found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week at his Salem home.

Line looks ready

The Ducks' only sure thing heading into spring drills appears to be the offensive line, which has lost only Corey Chambers from last season.

Clemens says the returning linemen are 'putting up unbelievable' weights in the offseason, with Nick Steitz, Dan Weaver, Adam Snyder and Joey Forster leading the way.

Receivers show promise

Recent prep signee Jordan Carey is athletic enough to vie for playing time, starting in the spring, and late signee James Finley should get his Duck baptism during spring drills. Coach Mike Bellotti is really hoping that Demetrius Williams and Keith Allen can step up and play prominent roles, too, with Kellen Taylor next in line to complement Samie Parker.

Williams, at 6-3, 180, 'is deceptively fast, smooth and a phenomenal basketball player,' Clemens says. And Clemens says playing with Taylor is 'like lining up with Onterrio Smith on the outside.' Allen, the best athlete in the group, needs to stay healthy.

Notes: John Neal, the new defensive backs coach, will not have any new recruits on hand when the Ducks take the field next week. Rodney Woods and Marc Walker, JC transfers, will arrive in the fall, as will Florida prep Ryan Gilliam. Neal will be working extensively with sophomores Aaron Gipson and Marques Binns and senior Steven Moore. Binns was skinny and inexperienced last year but has grown 2 inches and filled out some. The 46-year-old Neal has coached for 23 years, tutoring mostly defensive secondaries, most recently at Alabama-Birmingham.

Offensive lineman Forster (knee), defensive tackle Igor Olshansky (back) and fullback Matt Floberg (shoulder) will be held out of contact drills. É The spring game is set for 1 p.m. May 2, at Autzen Stadium. É Position changes: Shawn Perkins, from defensive tackle to the offensive line (last year); Matt Toeaina, from fullback to defensive end (last year); Nuvraj Bassi, from the offensive to defensive line; Ryan Loftin, from fullback to tight end; Erik Cheney, from linebacker to fullback; Darius Sanders, from tight end to defensive end; Scott Vossmeyer, from quarterback to middle linebacker; and Andy Collins, from quarterback to outside linebacker.

Contact Jason Vondersmith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..