The Ducks had 17 verbal commitments entering the week, the latest being Jonathan Stewart, the fabulous prep running back from Lacey, Wash. The list does not include running back T.R. Smith and cornerback Willie Glasper. Those two grayshirts, and James Finley, from Compton Community College (Calif.), already have signed letters and enrolled.

Oregon has some verbals from JC players, who can sign anytime, and several prep players, who can sign starting Feb. 2.

Only three scholarship running backs remained on the roster after last season, Terrence Whitehead, Chris Vincent and Terrell Jackson, and the coaches yearned for playmakers. Securing Stewart was their primary goal, but they also reportedly have a verbal from Jeremiah Johnson from Los Angeles and still hope J.R. Hasty of Bellevue, Wash., flies south. Hasty and linebacker teammate E.J. Savannah supposedly want to be a package deal, however, and they have options.

Then there's Smith. Although the Jefferson High product had trouble passing his entrance exam, coach Mike Bellotti stuck with him and honored the scholarship offer, and looks forward to watching him on offense. Says Bellotti: 'I think he's pretty good with the ball in his hands.'

New offensive coordinator Gary Crowton fancies himself as 'progressive' and admires what ex-Utah coach Urban Meyer and others do offensively. Crowton doesn't sound like a conservative, grind-it-out guy. He also has been studying the Indianapolis Colts and how they get QB Peyton Manning time to pass with certain step-drops and shotgun.

Ñ Jason Vondersmith

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