Oregon looks toward erasing last season

Updated: August 5, 2003, 9:05 PM ET

EUGENE, Ore. -- Bad memories of last season still linger for the Oregon Ducks.

Heading into that season, the Ducks were the back-to-back Pacific-10 Conference champions. They went 11-0 in 2001, led by quarterback Joey Harrington, and finished with the No. 2 national ranking.

The 2002 Ducks opened by reeling off six-straight wins, got ranked as high as sixth and appeared well on their way to another conference title.

But Oregon lost six of its last seven games. They punctuated the slide with a 38-17 loss to Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl to finish 7-6.

"Last season? Yeah, that left a real bad taste in our mouth," said quarterback Jason Fife. "The bowl game? Yeah, that left a bad taste, too."

So the Ducks are approaching this season markedly different from last: Rather that building on the recent past they're trying to erase it. And the only way to do that is win.

"We've got a fire under us," Fife said Tuesday.

Fife will be the focus of a lot of preseason attention as the Ducks start fall practice on Wednesday.

Fife, a senior who started for Oregon last season, is in competition this year with Kellen Clemens. Coach Mike Bellotti said the two are on equal footing at this point -- and there's no real timetable for choosing a starter.

"It may be sometime in fall camp, it may be first game, it may not be decided until midseason," he said. "And it may be a system that allows us to play two quarterbacks on some type of regular basis, whether it be rotating series or quarters or specific plays.

"I really don't know."

Fife threw for 24 touchdowns as last season's starter, but also had 10 interceptions. Clemens, who replaced Fife in the second quarter of the Seattle Bowl, completed 23-for-40 for 201 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Clemens said he has to be ready even if Fife does get the starting job -- if for some reason a game situation called for him to jump in. He also has to stay ready as the apparent starter in 2004.

"I think no matter who starts you have to be supportive of each other," Clemens said. "Both of us are ready for that."

Also on Tuesday, controversial recruit Rodney Woods was formally admitted to school after meeting academic requirements.

Woods, a cornerback out of Fresno City College, was convicted of felony assault for his role in a fight at a party in Southern California in May, 2000. Christopher O'Leary, 17, died after a separate assault at the same party.

Earlier this year, Woods, who spent a year in jail, petitioned the court to reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor so that he could attend Oregon. A judge granted his request.

Bellotti said that he did not yet know whether Woods might start this season.

"I hope that he's competing for a starting position and making us better at cornerback. He actually played a safety position in junior college, so it's going to be hard to say," Bellotti said. "Until we get out there and practice, I really can't say."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index