Dennis Dixon worked out for NFL scouts last week. Threw well, probably improved his draft stock.
Talk about a tease.
If that wasn't the final reminder of how close Oregon got to the 2007 national championship game, then it was close to it. Dixon soon will be gone from campus, leaving behind a memory of almost. With Dixon at quarterback, the Ducks rose as high as No. 2 in the BCS standings in 2007. The quarterback was on his way to becoming a Heisman finalist -- at least.
|Dixon and Oregon enjoyed success last season. (Getty Images)|
Chip Kelly, though, is a quarterback maker. He helped develop the spread offense at New Hampshire and carried its finer points to Eugene. Kelly caught the attention of Oregon's Mike Bellotti before last season and was hired as offensive coordinator. Two stars were born: Dixon and Kelly.
Not only is Dixon seemingly headed to an NFL camp but the New Hampshire quarterback Kelly left behind, Ricky Santos, should get a look as a free agent.
The coach who helped create the monster Franken-Dixon now has to go into the laboratory again. In the middle of spring he is trying sift through five candidates to replace him.
There was hope within the late-season collapse. Oregon beat South Florida 56-21 in the Sun Bowl with redshirt freshman Justin Roper throwing four touchdowns in his first career start.
"Everybody rallied around the situation," Kelly said. "It was tough. We were so close ... when Dennis went down it effected us tremendously. It took them a while to get over it."
Sophomore Nate Costa seems to be in line to be No. 1 but Kelly has been coy, calling it a practice order instead of a depth chart. Costa won't be hit in the spring because he is recovering from knee surgery.
Below Costa and Roper are sophomore Cody Kempt, BYU transfer Cade Cooper and two freshmen who enrolled early -- Darron Thomas and Chris Harper. Thomas committed to LSU as an athlete before signing with Oregon. Harper, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Wichita, runs a 4.5 40 and got offers from Notre Dame, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas State.
The quarterback picture would be much clearer had Kelly been able to land prospect Terrelle Pryor. The nation's No. 1 player probably would have been given the chance of winning the job as a freshman. Certainly, that's what Michigan was selling. The surprise was that Kelly and Oregon got that close to signing Pryor being 2,000 miles away. Pryor's coach, Ray Reitz, gave Kelly credit for getting into the final four on his player.
Pryor narrowed his choices to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Oregon on Feb. 6 before choosing the Buckeyes.