Freedom Bowl : NOTEBOOK : An Understudy for Now, O’Neil Prepares for First College Test


Dan O’Neil, planning for the future, sees the wisdom in inviting a couple of Oregon’s offensive linemen home for Christmas dinner with his family.

“Get ‘em over to the house, feed ‘em good,” O’Neil said.

Beef them up, and make them beholden to him in one easy step. Sage move, O’Neil.

O’Neil, from Newport Beach, was the star quarterback at Mater Dei High School last season, passing for 2,198 yards and 19 touchdowns with only two interceptions.


This season, he is a quarterback-in-waiting, redshirting at Oregon while the Ducks’ outstanding senior, Bill Musgrave, finishes his career Saturday in the Freedom Bowl at Anaheim Stadium.

Next season, O’Neil will be in the mix with six other quarterbacks trying to replace Musgrave.

“It’s gonna be wide open,” O’Neil said. “There is a JC transfer coming in from San Diego who’s supposed to be pretty good.”

That would be Brett Salisbury of Palomar Community College, who set a national JC record by throwing eight touchdown passes in one game.


There is at least one current Duck who likes O’Neil’s chances. That’s Robert (Kealii) Clifford, who used to take O’Neil’s handoffs as Mater Dei’s tailback and also is redshirting.

“He has a great chance, I feel,” Clifford said. “Even though he’s skinny, he has the strongest arm, I feel.”

O’Neil spent the first half of the season as one of the understudies to Musgrave, learning the offense.

“You learn a lot by watching Bill Musgrave,” he said. “There are a lot more defenses, a lot of learning. It takes a while to get used to.”


Once he had learned the offense, he moved over to the scout team for the rest of his redshirt season, which is ending in a trip home for a bowl game.

A happy occasion?

“It would have been nice to go to Hawaii,” O’Neil said.

Instead, he is home--not too bad. O’Neil said he planned to take flanker Brian Brown, split end Scott Bryan and perhaps a few others home for a Christmas meal.


Offensive linemen more than welcome.

Clifford might face a more difficult climb up the depth chart than O’Neil.

The top two running backs this season are freshmen. Sean Burwell, a redshirt freshman, became the starter after sophomore starter Brandon Jumper was lost for the season in the second game. Howard Blackwell, a true freshman, has been the backup.

Colorado State Coach Earle Bruce will leave Southern California today to fly to Columbus, Ohio, because of the death of John Zonak, his close friend and attorney. Bruce will not return until Wednesday night, missing Wednesday’s practice.


Zonak, who died of bone cancer, represented Bruce in numerous negotiations, as well as in a 1987 lawsuit against Ohio State and its president after Bruce was fired in 1987. The suit was settled out of court.

Bruce is one of three active coaches to guide four schools to bowl games, having coached Tampa, Iowa State, Ohio State and now Colorado State in postseason games.

He joins Notre Dame’s Lou Holtz and Indiana’s Bill Mallory as the other active coaches to do that.

Injuries, Etc: Colorado State cornerback Harlan Carroll, who has four interceptions this season, did not practice Monday because of a viral infection. . . . Oregon linebacker Peter Brantley, formerly of Irvine High School, remains day-to-day with a moderate strain of ligaments in his left knee, which was injured Friday. He did not practice Monday. “It’s sore,” he said. “We’ll find out sometime later this week. I was looking forward to (playing in front of family and friends) a lot.”