QB shrugs off knee injury while looking ahead to spring drills
by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, Oregon quarterback Nate Costa redshirted this season after suffering a severe knee injury in practice. Costa could be the front-runner for the starting job when the Ducks start spring drills.

EUGENE —Blown-out knee? No big deal, Oregon quarterback Nate Costa says. Been there, done that. “Second time I’ve done it,” says Costa, a UO sophomore who hurt his left knee in October with the Ducks and while at Hilmar (Calif.) High. “It’s something you laugh off, shake off your shoulder. Move on. “Football’s a violent game, and sometimes it takes things from you. “I know exactly what to do. This time, I can actually do it better. The rehab staff is better, the rehab facility is better (at Oregon). Back home, I had to drive a half-hour to get rehab every day. You can’t really do a leg press on cows to get better.” Costa suffered two torn ligaments — the anterior cruciate and medial collateral —in October and wound up using his redshirt season. Had he stayed healthy, Costa likely would have been pressed into duty when Dennis Dixon went down with his own knee injury. Instead, Brady Leaf, Cody Kempt and Justin Roper took turns trying to replace Dixon, with Roper having the most success. No one was happier for Roper. “I’m excited we won a bowl game,” Costa says, of the Ducks’ 56-21 Sun Bowl victory over South Florida. “Being in the middle of that trophy ceremony was huge for me. I hurt my knee, and I was down; after surgery, I was down even more. But that was the pinnacle, the high point in the season for us.” Well, beating USC and Arizona State in consecutive weeks to reach No. 2 in the country probably was the pinnacle for the Ducks, but you get Costa’s point. He wasn’t looking back, only thinking ahead to more rehabilitation and the quarterback competition to come in spring ball. Several will vie for job Costa, Roper, Kempt, Cade Cooper and maybe incoming freshman Darron Thomas will vie for QB time next season. Either Costa or Roper probably will win the job. Touted prep Terrelle Pryor eventually could be part of the mix, if he takes a recruiting visit and signs with the Ducks. The 6-6, 205-pound Roper made his case in the final two games of 2007. But the 6-1, 220 Costa has been making his case for two years; last season, he completed 5 of 5 passes for 73 yards in two games, and the Duck coaches wanted to preserve another year of eligibility by redshirting him this season. “I can’t wait for spring for the competition to break out,” Costa says. “It’ll be fun. I always like to compete. I can’t really say anything about it right now. All I know is it’ll be a great time.” Roper’s play impressed him. “Give it up to Justin,” Costa says. “He played his heart out. He was definitely poised — holding his own with the big guys.” Return in spring Costa still has to get healthy. Soon, he will start doing squats and hamstring curls, and the next step will be adding weights to the exercises. In about three months, he hopes to be running, and then start to make cuts. In spring practice, he should be able to do all the noncontact drills. “Everything’s good, ahead of schedule,” he says. “I’ve made such progress, it looks like full-go in spring drills, as long as I keep making progress.” Summer workouts will be critical for Costa. Costa has a strong and accurate arm, but much of his game is his ability to run, which is very important in Oregon’s spread offense. “I went through the same thing in high school,” he says, “and I came back faster and more agile, because I worked my ass off to get back in. I tried to be better than I was before. I’m going to do the same thing this time.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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