Beats out Bryan Bennett
The quarterback battle at the Oregon Ducks football program has officially been decided.
After the surprise departure of Darron Thomas to the NFL draft, Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota were left to compete for one of the top jobs in college football. The two competed through spring, summer, and fall camps and made the decision a tough one for Head Coach Chip Kelly.
“I have a lot of faith after seeing Bryan for a couple years now, and Marcus for a full year now, and both those guys’ ability to play,” said Kelly when asked about the two quarterbacks at Oregon football’s annual media day.
Heading into camp on what was apparently equal footing, Bennett and Mariota remained that way for most of the fall, with players and coaches heralding them as great leaders and athletes.
With ambiguity surrounding who would start for the Ducks against Arkansas State on September 1st, Chip Kelly and the coaches headed into the film room after their final scrimmage on August 23rd to determine what player would be the next quarterback for their program.
Bennett and Mariota could not do any more. They had gone through all the reps, ran their camps, and tried to show the coaches why they deserved to take that first snap against the Red Wolves in front of the Autzen faithful.
Mariota, according to team sources, will be the next great quarterback of the Oregon football program. Raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, this redshirt freshmen had done everything to impress the coaches and ultimately give him the starting spot over game-experienced Bryan Bennett.
The St. Louis High School (Honolulu, Hawaii) standout threw for over 2,500 yards on a 64.7% completion rate while also throwing 32 touchdowns to five interceptions during his senior campaign. He would also lead the Crusaders to a state title after posting an 11-1 record.
Rated by Rivals.com and Scout.com as a three star recruit and the No. 12 overall quarterback in the nation (Rivals.com), Mariota came into the program with many fans speculating about what kind of role this talented athlete would move in to.
From very early on, Mariota flashed his athleticism, athleticism that wowed coaches and players. During last years’ Civil War contest, Chip Kelly was quoted saying how talented Marcus Mariota was despite no real attention garnered.
After Thomas’ departure to the NFL draft, however, Mariota began to receive a lot of attention. Rumors of a “secret”, great quarterback in the Oregon system began to surface and the media immediately flocked to try and find out who this talented athlete was.
With closed spring practices, that was very hard to accomplish.
Finally laid eyes on him
The first time the media and Oregon fans were able to see Mariota was in the 2012 Oregon Spring game, a coming out game of sorts for such a young player.
In front of tens of thousands of Ducks fans and the national media, Mariota did nothing but impress.
He led his team to a 41-14 win over Bennett’s squad while completing 18 of 26 passes (59.4%) for 209 yards while also throwing for a touchdown and one interception. The talented athlete also rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns (14, 82) on four carries.
Oregon fans were immediately enamored with this new prospect. Despite all the hype surrounding him, Chip Kelly refused to be swayed one way or another.
Coach Kelly reiterated the fact that the Spring Game was just a small percentage of everything that happens in camp and that there was plenty more evaluations to occur before September 1st.
Still, Oregon fans were left in awe about what this quarterback could do.
Chip knew what he had
While they acknowledged Bryan Bennett as an extremely talented athlete in his own right, there was a certain aura surrounding Mariota that really intrigued fans.
This is not to say that Bennett is completely out of the picture, however.
The physical nature of the Oregon quarterback position as well as a fairly light schedule early on should give Bennett plenty of playing time early on.
Should he emerge as a better in-game player, it is not that difficult to imagine coach Kelly switching up his starting quarterback position yet again.
But as for now, Marcus Mariota is the starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks football program.
Mariota will face his first test when Oregon hosts the Arkansas State Red Wolves on September 1st.