Like nearly everyone else on Oregon's campus, coach Mike Bellotti
has some advice for junior quarterback Jason Fife, the heir
apparent to Joey Harrington, who led the Ducks to their best
record (11-1) and their highest ranking (No. 2) ever last season
before being drafted third by the Detroit Lions. "Jason shouldn't
worry about what Joey has done," says Bellotti. "He needs to be
his own person."
Not a problem, according to Fife's teammates. Last year the
dirty-blond-haired Fife, a former child actor whose career peaked
with a bit part in the 1993 movie Addams Family Values, tried to
bring back the mullet cut, and he may be plotting more tonsorial
treachery this year. Fife may be inexperienced--in two years as a
backup he attempted just nine passes--but he is bigger, faster and
stronger than Harrington. Plus, he's not alone. "Not to take
anything away from Joey, but he had a lot of help to look as good
as he did, and a lot of that help is still here," says senior
All-America Keenan Howry, a receiver and punt returner who has
amassed 133 catches, 1,914 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in
Anchored by sophomore tackles Igor Olshansky and Robby
Valenzuela, the defensive line could be one of the strongest in
Ducks history. That should take pressure off junior Steven Moore
and the other, as-yet-to-be-named cornerback who will replace NFL
draftees Rashad Bauman and Steve Smith.
Fife, who was courted only by Oregon and Fresno State coming out
of Temescal Canyon High in Lake Elsinore, Calif., knows all about
living below the radar. Until now his college football career had
resembled his childhood acting career: one bit part and no
celebrity. But he is ready for a starring role. "I want to prove
to all the naysayers that a small-timer can make a difference,"
says Fife. "I know I'm going to have to earn any respect I get,
but that's the way we do things around here." --Kelli Anderson
COLOR PHOTO: JOHNG W. MCDONOUGH DUCK AND COVER The multidimensional Howry will once again lead one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the nation.
2001 RECORD: 11-1 (7-1, 1st in Pac-10)
FINAL RANKING: No. 2 AP, No. 2 coaches' poll
Catches needed by Keenan Howry to break the Ducks' record of 162.
Howry is 830 yards shy of the team mark of 2,744 receiving yards.
An opposing coach's view
The defense has to buy time for a rebuilding offense
"Tailback Onterrio Smith is very quick and extremely tough to
defend. They'll lean on him while the offense gets adjusted to
new quarterback Jason Fife.... Over the last few years they got
by with an average defense. But without 30-plus points per game
from the offense, the defense will have to be better than
that--and it will be. Defense could be the team's strength....
Middle linebacker Kevin Mitchell will be the guy everything
revolves around. He's always in the right place at the right
Aug. 31 MISSISSIPPI STATE
Sept. 7 FRESNO STATE
21 PORTLAND STATE
Oct. 5 at Arizona
12 at UCLA
19 Arizona State
Nov. 2 STANFORD
9 at Washington State
23 at Oregon State