Oregon opens camp eyeing another BCS berth

Oregon held its annual Media Day at Autzen Stadium before beginning fall practice Monday, and Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard has you covered on all things Ducks with news and notes from the media gathering. Here are some of the highlights from the first day of the fall season for the Ducks.

• Head coach Chip Kelly said that the team’s youth really stands out when analyzing the roster, which includes just 14 seniors. “We think we’ve got some kids with athletic ability, but we don’t know until they get out there and we can see what they can do,” Kelly said. One of the kids who should see immediate playing time is Colt Lyerla, an athlete who will line up at tight end. He’s an intriguing talent because he’s tough and has a nasty demeanor. De’Anthony Thomas could also see time on offense despite being a better fit at cornerback in terms of long-term pro potential. And with the Ducks needing help at receiver, how much time will Devon Blackmon receive? Lache Seastrunk, the running back at the center of the Willie Lyles investigation, also should receive an increased role despite the presence of LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner in the backfield. Kelly is concerned about James and Barner wearing out. “We can't run those guys into the ground, because right now we only have two proven commodities at that position." Expect Seastrunk to see the field.

Darron ThomasICONDarron Thomas will begin his second season as the starter under center.

• The play of quarterback Darron Thomas against Auburn in the BCS national championship game really is what kept the Ducks in that game. Despite his struggles running the zone option and the grounding of James, Thomas excelled through the air and passed for over 330 yards. Still, Kelly knows he can improve. He also believes that Thomas has to become even more of a leader as the team brings along younger players.

• Offensive line arguably is the team’s biggest question mark, especially after the performance against Auburn and the impending contest against another SEC team, LSU. Can the unit replace all-conference center Jordan Holmes? Guard Carson York and tackle Mark Asper will be the anchors of a unit that will be the focus of much scrutiny this fall.

• On defense, key contributors such as Kenny Rowe and Casey Matthews are gone. Star cornerback Cliff Harris will miss at least the opener against the Tigers while on suspension. And who knows how long middle linebacker Kiko Alonso will be suspended. Kelly has met with both Harris and Alonso but said “it'll be an ongoing evaluation process” as to when either might appear in a game this fall. Will this defense have enough depth to keep up with its frenetic attack? “We hope [potential lack of depth] doesn’t affect our tempo, because that’s what we do,” Kelly said. “Really, one of our goals is to see if we can play faster than we did last year.” Kelly certainly continues to push the envelope as the Ducks try to reach a third consecutive BCS contest — and finally get that elusive victory.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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