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Returning Starters
Tuesday, July 7, 5:45 p.m. PT

According to the five preseason college football magazines released to this point, the Ducks predicted Pac-10 finish ranges from second to sixth. The only other conference team with a larger disparity is Arizona, which is tabbed as high as tied for third and as low as eighth. Averaged out, UO is thought of as the third best team behind USC and California. I expect the Pac-10 media poll, released in conjunction with the conference's media day on July 30, will have an identical top three.

Why are USC and Cal ahead of Oregon? Well, until USC stops winning conference titles, there is no basis for ranking them anywhere else. Cal, on the other hand, has some of the key paperwork the pundits look for when assembling preseason rankings: 17 returning starters from a nine-win team that went 6-3 in league play, a favorable schedule and a Heisman Trophy candidate in Jahvid Best add up to a team with the potential to be a contender.

Now, the Ducks also have what would be considered a favorable schedule (USC, Cal and Oregon State all must come to Autzen), and with players like LeGarrette Blount, Ed Dickson and Jeremiah Masoli leading the charge on offense, there is no reason to think UO won't continue to pile up yards and points with the nation's best in 2009. But the missing ingredient, at least in terms of formal criteria, is returning starters from last year's 10-3 overall, 7-2 Pac-10 campaign. And that number is 10, the smallest of any league side.

The good news for Duck fans is that number is misleading. The statistic typically only takes into account returners who started more than half the games during the previous year. As a result, the Pac-10 spring prospectus lists five returners on offense and five on defense. But if you subscribe to the idea that you're only as good as your last game, UO has 12 returners who started against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl, and that doesn't include C.E. Kaiser, who is listed as one of the five on offense. Add to him Jordan Holmes, a four-game starter a year ago, and the number jumps to 14.

All told, 18 current Ducks (10 offense, 8 defense) have starting experience.

Placekicker Daniel Padilla has been granted his release in order to explore playing opportunities elsewhere.

Padilla, from Corona, Calif., would have been a redshirt sophomore for the Ducks this fall. He saw action as a true freshman in 2007, converting 3-of-4 field goal attempts and hitting on all seven of his extra point tries.

Jim Fisher, formerly a graduate assistant coach, has accepted the position of assistant director of football operations/recruiting. Fisher served as special teams intern in 2008 after arriving from Ashland University (NCAA DII), where he was the recruiting coordinator.

Josh Gibson has been named football operations administrative and teamwork manager.

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