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Kelly brings sizzle to scheme

New UO coordinator brings in no-huddle, shotgun formation
by: , KELLY

EUGENE - Coordinators need to exude confidence, and Oregon's new offensive guru feels that nobody will be able to outthink him.

'I have a thorough understanding and knowledge of what we're trying to accomplish on offense,' Chip Kelly says.

After 14 years at NCAA Division I-AA New Hampshire, Kelly gets his first crack at Division I defenses every weekend next season.

Kelly has arduously studied the spread offense, visited college campuses across the country to learn from others. He believes in his ability to formulate game plans that work and to make adjustments that get the better of opposing defensive coordinators.

Duck coach Mike Bellotti says that Kelly and new Minnesota offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar, formerly of Cal and Northwestern, have the most knowledge and savvy about the spread offense of any coaches in the country.

'He's able to express it, coach it and teach it,' Bellotti says of Kelly, 43. 'He's focused and very demanding.'

Kelly's first on-field experience with players concludes with the spring game 2 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

The Ducks have been working exclusively with a no-huddle offense to increase pace, a Kelly staple.

Expect to see two backs in the backfield more often, as Kelly wants to exploit the talents of Jonathan Stewart, Jeremiah Johnson and others.

The quarterbacks have been working in the shotgun formation and with the option, although Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf probably will line up under center in power-running situations.

Oregon coaches have introduced more user-friendly offensive terminology to simplify the offense for everybody.

But the most important charge Bellotti gave Kelly this spring: Cut down on turnovers. The Ducks made a Pac-10 high 32 turnovers last year - 18 interceptions and 14 fumbles -and that doesn't include 13 other fumbles that were not lost.

Oregon led the Pac-10 in offense last year, ranking ninth nationally at 423.2 yards per game, but Bellotti believes the Ducks could have led the country and won more games with better ball security.

Kelly says when coaches emphasize something rabidly players usually respond.

'It's got to be a priority and talked about,' Kelly says, 'not just passing mention.'

Through gantlet-stripping drills, ball-security exercises, instruction about how to hold the football properly and constant reminders, players get the message. So far, so good: No turnovers in two extended scrimmages.

'I'm sure most coaches in the country are emphasizing no turnovers,' backup QB Leaf says, 'but our track record hasn't been that good.'

Kelly's New Hampshire team had 14 turnovers in 13 games last season; one year it had 10.

'If you study turnovers,' he says, 'most of them occur because of poor fundamentals, like not carrying the ball the right way, holding it away from the body.'

Making the right decisions and reads have been the main emphasis with Dixon, who threw 14 interceptions as he digressed and pressed in the second half of the 2006 season.

Dixon spent much of the winter watching video, breaking down his interceptions and trying to understand why the ball ended up in the wrong hands.

Kelly and Bellotti have been impressed with Dixon's spring play, and all signs point to him being the starting quarterback again. He's simply too gifted to not play.

'I'm trying to educate him - does he understand the concept, the protection, what patterns are involved?' Kelly says.

'The more (QBs) get comfortable in what we're trying to throw, understanding concepts and who we're trying to attack and why … it's really managing the game, and there are times to force the ball and times to check down.'

The Ducks have been running no-huddle, because Kelly believes they should immerse themselves in it.

'You can get more plays off, too,' he says. 'It's like a tool in your toolbox. And it's easy to huddle. We're not totally a no-huddle team, it's an aspect of our offense, just like two tight ends will be an aspect of our offense.'

Same with the quarterback lined up in shotgun.

'We'll go under center, if the situation dictates,' Kelly says. 'Everything's like a side order. You can have a side order of fries, a side order of shotgun, a side order of no-huddle. You have to pick and choose on a weekly basis what you're going to feature.'

Dixon likes the pace Kelly sets with the offense. And, it appears Kelly wants Dixon to run the ball more - freelancing it, or by set play, à la Vince Young, Texas 2005.

'He's a quick, giddyap guy - get up and down, fast motion and everything,' Dixon says. 'That tempo should work well with us.'

Says Bellotti, of Dixon: 'He likes that tempo. He's obviously good at that tempo. It fits his personality -he's a quick-twitch guy, and he's getting better at all decision making.

'He's a guy you would term an unstoppable athlete, and he can get better to stay within framework.'

The pace helps everybody, according to Stewart.

'We'll be getting up on the defense,' he says. 'We'll be able to set more of a tone in the beginning of the game. That's big. It gets the offense going.'


UO Football

The UO spring football game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Two equal teams, determined by draft and coached by coordinators Chip Kelly and Nick Aliotti, will compete.

The requested admission is three nonperishable food items per person. Parking in the east lot will be free, gates open at 11 a.m.

KXL (750 AM) will provide live radio coverage.

• Running back-punt returner Andiel Brown, from Cleveland High, will be on scholarship through summer term. To remain on scholarship through next school year 'depends on my performance in spring ball and fall camp,' he says.

• Assistant coach Tom Osborne has made an impact with the special teams. 'Everybody knows their assignments,' tight end Ed Dickson says. 'Look for much better special teams.'

Coach Mike Bellotti wanted Osborne to concentrate on punting and kickoff coverage, 'because it's where you can get hurt the fastest.'

• Redshirt freshman defensive end Brandon Bair, who returned from a two-year Mormon mission last season, has been impressive with his play and 'infectious' energy, Bellotti says.

- Jason Vondersmith