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Notes on Oregon's preseason camp

8/18/2012

Nearly two weeks into Oregon fall camp, there is plenty of speculation as to who has the upper hand in the position battles and who has put themselves in position to see the field early on.

All eyes are on the ongoing quarterback battle between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota.

When it comes to discussing his team, Ducks head coach Chip Kelly plays everything close to the vest. There is no greater example of this than when it comes to who will be given the keys to his high-flying offense.

While there is always ongoing competition at every spot on the field. Oregon's talent level and depth put it on par with some of the top programs in the country. The way Oregon works under Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Nick Alioti, being a backup doesn't have the negative connotation it does in some programs.

There are only a few starting spots up for grabs but with 25 players rotating on defense during the course of the game, being a backup is just as important as being named the starter.

Quick notes on the first two weeks of camp:

• The Ducks are still at least a week away from naming a starter at quarterback but the water cooler talk is at an all-time high. Many thought that since Marcus Mariota had earned so much of Chip Kelly's respect in the spring, that he was looking like he had overtaken Bryan Bennett as the favorite to win the starting quarterback job.

All indications are that Mariota has still impressed, but Bennett isn't going down without a fight. In fact, it seems as if Bennett might be back at the top of the chart. The next week will culminate a seven-month competition. Whoever gets the nod will be ready to go from week one.

• The wide receiver group has been thinned by the recent departure of Tacoi Sumler, but what that should signal is that the reports of BJ Kelley and Devon Blackmon being way ahead of Sumler were likely true. Kelley has drawn rave reviews from Oregon's defensive backs for his overall presence at receiver.

• Those in charge of protecting the quarterback have been drawing praise, as well as dishing some out when it comes to their daily opponents in practice.

After suffering a knee-injury that saw him carted off the field on a cart during the Rose Bowl, senior offensive tackle Carson York is coming along nicely as he works to get back into his comfort zone.

Junior-college transfer Kyle Long is in the process of appealing for an extra year of eligibility. As it stands now, Long has just one year to play. All indications are that he has shown enough to see the field this year. If he gets a second year, he could become a star for the Ducks.

• The defense is always ahead of the offense during spring ball and usually fall camp. The defensive line always seems to earn praise in the off-season, but this year the praise coming from coaches and players alike make it seem more legitimate than in the past.

The front seven of the Ducks have huge expectations placed upon them. Led by defensive end Dion Jordan, the Ducks front seven is already backing up the belief that this could be the strongest defensive group in school history. Taylor Hart, Isaac Remington, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Christian French are among those who have been called out by Chip Kelly and teammates for their strong showing thus far.

French has made a seamless transition from tight end to defensive end and looks primed to make an impact as Dion Jordan's future replacement.

Buckner has gained 30 to 40 pounds since he signed with the Ducks in February, but has maintained his speed and quickness. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Buckner could turn out to be the best player in the Oregon's 2012 class. If his early effort is any indication, he will be the next star on Oregon defensive line.

• Sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla is back in the mix after missing the first few days of camp while dealing with a personal issue. Lyerla is the only tight end on the roster with any experience as he is joined by four freshman. The good news is that each one of them brings a different skill to the table. The three that signed with the Ducks in February -- Evan Baylis, Pharoah Brown and TJ Daniel -- have all shown they can be on the field week one.

Lyerla's designation as the starter is far from solid as he works to get back into the fold.

• Newcomers Bralon Addison, and Byron Marshall have all caught the eye of those who have seen them in practice.

Addison is developing a reputation similar to De'Anthony Thomas as far as what he has done in his first few weeks on campus. He has been a terror on special teams and a dynamic option for Chip Kelly on offense. Addison might not be the second coming of Thomas, but he might be the closest thing to it.

Byron Marshall came into camp in shape and ready to go. His size, speed and knowledge of the game have helped him slide in and become the important number three back behind Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.

• Arik Armstead, who arrived in the spring, has continued to impress with his huge frame and his elite athleticism. Many believed Armstead was making a poor choice by choosing defensive line over offensive line. So far, he has done nothing but impress everyone he has gone against.