FRESNO -- Fact No. 1: Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon spent his summer chasing down balls in minor league outfields and striking out 22 times in
74 at-bats for a .176 batting average.
Fact No. 2: Dixon led an offense that's demolished defenses the first two weeks of this football season and received USA Today's National Player of the Week award.
"How he's playing in football right now, I'd tell him to leave (baseball) alone," said
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Fresno State defensive back Damion Owens, who went to high school with Dixon.
The rest of the nation likely would, too.
But Dixon hasn't always been this successful on the football field. He finished his career at San Leandro High with a 36-3 record but has sometimes struggled at Oregon, which went 7-6 last season.
Dixon started the first
11 games of 2006 and threw for 2,143 yards with
14 interceptions and
12 touchdowns. His highlight performance was a 215-yard, three-touchdown day in a win against Arizona State. He returned the next week to throw for 263 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in a 45-24 loss to Cal.
In the final seven games, in which Oregon was 2-5, Dixon threw for 704 yards, nine interceptions and two touchdowns. He was replaced as the starter the final two games but still got substantial playing time in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Coming off that mercurial season, Dixon chose to play minor league baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization as a fifth-round draft pick rather than attend voluntary summer workouts.
Said Owens, "He told me he didn't know if he still wanted
to do football."
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti openly questioned the move.
"I said publicly that I wished he were here reading defenses instead of reading curveballs, and I said certainly the timing wasn't good," Bellotti said during the Pac-10 teleconference this week.
Dixon said he felt no pressure coming into this season, saying he continued throwing the football and speaking to teammates while away from the team. After fall camp, he was voted a captain by his teammates.
Defenses may have a hard time focusing on the Oregon attack: there are several weapons.
While the Ducks operate out of a shotgun spread formation, they rank third in the nation in rushing yards per game (335) and 69th in passing (213.5). Dixon's speed combines with running backs Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson to give their option attack teeth.