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Aleman holding out hope for 2001

EUGENE - Cy Aleman is tired of all the questions he gets every time he sees an old friend from the Rogue Valley or encounters a member of the Southern Oregon media.

What's wrong?

Why aren't you playing more?

Why don't you transfer?

There is no disputing that the former standout wide receiver at Ashland High has thus far had a disappointing and frustrating career at Oregon. He has been with the Ducks for three seasons now, including one as a redshirt, and has all of two receptions for 34 yards to show for it.

Those paltry statistics are surely not what the Ducks envisioned when they offered him a full scholarship after he caught 49 passes for 1,171 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior for the Grizzlies in 1997, when he helped them to a No. — state ranking and a 10-1 record.

But there's nothing wrong and, according to head coach Mike Bellotti, Aleman has a good chance to see the field a lot this fall. He's penciled in as the No. 4 wide receiver behind starters Keenan Howry and Jason Willis and backup Sammy Parker.

"I see him helping this football team," Bellotti said at Oregon's media day on Friday. "He lost his confidence there for awhile but he looked good in the spring.

"He was running good routes and attacking the ball."

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Aleman is the Ducks' biggest and most physical wide receiver. He also has a 35-inch jump reach - the best on the team.

But Aleman had a hard time hanging onto the ball when he first came to Eugene and then, as Bellotti noted, he lost faith in himself.

"I think once I make a big catch or big block I'll be on my way," Aleman says. "I think I'm on the doorstep of doing some good things."

Aleman admits he's thought about leaving Oregon several times, but decided to persevere with the hope that his time under the sun would eventually come.

"It's been a long journey," he says. "But I'm glad I stayed. This team could do something big this season and hopefully I can contribute."

* * *

Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington spent nearly an entire day with Oregon State running back Ken Simonton during a photo shoot with Sports Illustrated last weekend in Los Angeles.

The two Heisman Trophy candidates appear on the magazine's cover this week.

"I hung out with him in L.A. and we got to know each other a lot better," Harrington says. "He's a good kid - and a real talker."

Simonton reveled in the fact that the magazine picked OSU No. — in the country, but Harrington got back at the prize tailback when it came time to take pictures.

"They brought in a box for Ken to stand on and I had to rib him about that," Harrington said.

Simonton is 5-foot-8, while Harrington is 6-4.

* * *

With 20 straight victories at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks hold the nation's second-longest home winning streak (Florida State is first with 35 straight).

Part of the homefield advantage was the slippery OmniTurf playing surface, which didn't didn't seem to affect the Ducks nearly as much as it did their opponents. With the recent installation of a new turf - a sand-based surface called NexTurf - the Ducks have lost that edge.

Or have they?

"It's a little slick," Harrington says. "It's going to take a while to get used to it."

* * *

If the Ducks needed any extra motivation to prepare for this season, it's the fact that they open against Wisconsin at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 1. The Badgers handed the Ducks a 27-23 loss at Madison, Wis., in the second game of the 2000 campaign.

Oregon had a record 72 players stay in Eugene over the summer to work out.

"That helped to get us in shape, obviously," Bellotti says, "and it also helped our chemistry and unity."

Wisconsin went on to a 9-4 record, including a 21-20 victory over UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Oregon finished 10-2, including a 35-30 win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com