Masoli practices, but won't play, with the Ducks

BY foxsports • March 31, 2010

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli took part in the opening day of spring practice at Oregon even though he won't play a down for the Ducks this fall after his season-long suspension.

Masoli pleaded guilty March 12 to a misdemeanor burglary charge involving a theft at a campus fraternity house in late January. He was suspended by coach Chip Kelly within hours of his court appearance.

Masoli, touted as a possible Heisman candidate in his senior season, is allowed to practice with the team during the suspension and could request a redshirt.

There has been speculation that Masoli will transfer. But he was present Tuesday when the Ducks opened spring workouts - with Nate Costa taking the initial snaps at quarterback.

During the morning workout, Masoli appeared at quarterback and slot receiver.

``He's just going to practice with us, but he's really not going to take a lot of reps at quarterback cause he's not going to play quarterback for us next year. He's going help out wherever he can help out,'' Kelly said. ``Need somebody to hold the (tackling) dummy, need somebody to run the practice, need somebody to do different things - he understands his role on the team.''

Costa missed two seasons because of knee injuries before serving as Masoli's backup last season. While Masoli was out with a sore knee, Costa made his first career start against UCLA and went 9 of 17 for 82 yards and a touchdown in Oregon's 24-10 victory.

Costa was supposed to be the Ducks' starter in 2008, but he sustained a season-ending knee injury in fall camp. Masoli, a junior college transfer who was expected to redshirt as the team's fifth-string QB, went on to win the starting job during the season.

But Masoli's senior season with the Ducks was scuttled when he and a former teammate took two computers and guitar from a frat house on Jan. 25. Masoli initially was charged with a felony, but he struck a plea deal that reduced the charge.

He was sentenced to 12 months of probation, 140 hours of community service and restitution.

Masoli threw for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 668 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Excused from the opening day of spring practice was sophomore running back LaMichael James, who was suspended from Oregon's season opener after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge involving a fight with his former girlfriend.

James, who rushed for a Pac-10 freshman record 1,546 yards last season, was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 24 months of probation - on the same day Masoli appeared in court.

James served his sentence on house arrest because of jail overcrowding. He was excused from practice Tuesday for academic reasons, although he did drop by for a few moments to chat with Kelly and some of his teammates.

In less than four months since playing in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State, the Ducks have faced a number of cases of player misconduct. The program was thrown into additional disorder when athletic director and former football coach Mike Bellotti abruptly resigned on March 19 to take an analyst's job with ESPN.

Kelly tried to put the trouble in perspective, saying it involved only a small percentage of the team.

``Ninety-eight percent of the other kids are doing things the right way and their leadership showed up today right from the start of practice,'' he said.

Kelly dutifully answered questions about the team's problems, but brightened up considerably when he was asked about football.

``You're always excited about spring practice,'' he said. ``It's fun.''

Oregon went 10-3 last season and won the Pac-10 title before losing 26-17 to the Buckeyes in Pasadena.

The Ducks practiced in helmets and jerseys inside the Moshofsky Center on Tuesday.

Oregon plays its annual spring game on May 1 at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks open the 2010 season at home against New Mexico on Sept. 4.

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