Quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jonathan Stewart left Eugene in the offseason. Now Nate Costa, the heir apparent in the Ducks' backfield, reinjured his surgically repaired left knee and will miss at least eight weeks.
"Dennis was arguably one of the best football players in the United States last year," said Oregon coach Mike Bellotti in Tuesday's Pac-10 Conference teleconference. "He was magic in our offense. Jonathan was a first-round draft choice as an underclassman."
Sophomore Justin Roper, who completed 32 of 61 passes for 342 yards and six touchdowns, will start against Washington Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
"As much as we're going to miss those guys, I think you have to move on," said Bellotti. "Justin Roper is the guy right now, he did some great things in our bowl game."
Also on the depth chart is Jeremiah Masoli, who led City College of San Francisco to the California state championship last year (defeating Mount San Antonio College and UCLA starting quarterback Kevin Craft in the process).
"He has as quick a release and as good an arm as anyone I've had the ability to coach," said Bellotti of Masoli. "He's a sparkplug and he's fast and he's quick, so he's got all the attributes to run this offense.
"He's going to push Justin Roper."
With all this quarterback talk, perhaps the most important quarterback at Autzen Stadium Saturday will be Washington's Jake Locker, who had 13 carries for 78 yards and 257 yards and four touchdowns passing against Oregon last year.
"He's probably in my opinion the most dangerous weapon in Division I football," said Bellotti.