It was one of the biggest quarterback battles of the 2012 college football preseason. As reported by The Oregonian today, Chip Kelly made the announcement as to who would be the starting QB for Oregon entering the season openor September 1st.
Ladies and gentleman Marcus Mariota has been given the keys to Kelly’s high powered up-tempo offense.
The redshirt freshman impressed the coaching staff enough to edge sophomore Bryan Bennett. What Mariota has achieved is impressive, considering that Bennett did get playing time last season including a start at Colorado where I was but one of many who witnessed an absolute thrashing. In the game Bennett ran the offense to near perfection rushing for 69 yards, while throwing for 156 and two touchdowns.
Oregon runs a spread offense that forces the quarterback to make quick pass-run decisions. Letting a freshman handle the responsibility could be looked at as a risky proposition.
In the Spring, Mariota put his speed and passing ability on display pushing the elder Bennett. The Honolulu native joins a star studded cast in the backfield. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are proven playmakers at the running back and hybrid receiver position respectively.
If Mariota can play like a point guard with a distribution mindset, the Ducks have a chance to make some noise nationally. Both the Coaches’ and AP poll have dubbed Oregon as the preseason fifh ranked team in the nation. The ranking is considerably high given there would be a new signal-caller no matter the decision.
Assuming that Mariota is as capable as Kelly believes he is, the Ducks have a good shot of being undefeated when they face USC November 3rd. Winning a quarterback battle is one thing, winning the battle for a program that expects BCS and Naitonal Championship appearances is another.
The Marcus Mariota era has begun in Eugene.
James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America
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