Like nearly everyone else on Oregon's campus, coach Mike Bellotti has some advice for junior quarterback Jason Fife, the heir apparent to Joey Harrington, who led the Ducks to their best record (11-1) and their highest ranking (No. 2) ever last season before being drafted third by the Detroit Lions. "Jason shouldn't worry about what Joey has done," says Bellotti. "He needs to be his own person."
Not a problem, according to Fife's teammates. Last year the dirty-blond-haired Fife, a former child actor whose career peaked with a bit Dart in the 1993 movie Addams Family Values, tried to bring back the mullet cut, and he may be plotting more tonsorial treachery this year. Fife may be inexperienced—in two years as a backup he attempted just nine passes—but he is bigger, faster and stronger than Harrington. Plus, he's not alone. "Not to take anything away from Joey, but he had a lot of help to look as good as he did, and a lot of that help is still here," says senior All-America Keenan Howry, a receiver and punt returner who has amassed 133 catches, 1,914 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in three years.
Anchored by sophomore tackles Igor Olshansky and Robby Valenzuela, the defensive line could be one of the strongest in Ducks history. That should take pressure off junior Steven Moore and the other, as-yet-to-be-named cornerback who will replace NFL draftees Rashad Bauman and Steve Smith.
Fife, who was courted only by Oregon and Fresno State coming out of Temescal Canyon High in Lake Elsinore, Calif., knows all about living below the radar. Until now his college football career had resembled his childhood acting career: one bit part and no celebrity. But he is ready for a starring role. "I want to prove to all the naysayers that a small-timer can make a difference," says Fife. "I know I'm going to have to earn any respect I get, but that's the way we do things around here."