Marcus Mariota will officially be named Oregon's starting quarterback by head coach Chip Kelly on Friday after winning the intense battle with Bryan Bennett, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.
But if the redshirt freshman Mariota doesn't play up to Kelly's high standards, the third-year sophomore Bennett will be ready to step in — and produce.
US PRESSWIREMarcus Mariota has been chosen to start Oregon's opener against Arkansas State.
Mariota held off Bennett, last year's backup to starter Darron Thomas, after the final battle took place in Thursday's scrimmage. His rise to the starter began in the spring game at Autzen Stadium, where he looked like a steady veteran ready to lead one of the nation's most high-powered offenses.
The 6-4, 196-pound Hawaiian outplayed Bennett, completing 18 of 26 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown against one interception. The athletic signal-caller also rushed for 99 yards on five carries, which included an 82-yard touchdown sprint. Mariota looked comfortable on rollout passes, had good touch on his throws and looked confident in the huddle and in control while running the Ducks' high-octane, up-tempo attack.
As a senior in high school, Mariota threw for 2,597 yards with 32 touchdowns against just five interceptions. But due to closed practices, not many people were able to see Mariota play until the spring game this year.
However, Bennett will be ready to step in if Mariota is injured — or if he struggles early on. And it would not be surprising if we saw Bennett at some point in the opener against Arkansas State, even if it is mop-up duty.
The equally athletic signal-caller has the edge in playing experience after stepping in and performing very well for an injured Thomas last fall. He threw six touchdown passes with no interceptions and rushed for 200 yards on just 23 carries in 2011. His completion percentage of 54.3 won't be good enough for this offense, though, and he looked a little hesitant throwing the ball in the spring game. Mariota looked like the more polished passer, and that may ultimately be what helped him win the job when coupled with his elite running skills.
However, Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich will continue to look for the usual characteristics in their starter — ball protection, efficiency through the air and on the ground, leadership skills, etc. As long as Mariota lives up to his ability, the Ducks will have their No. 1 quarterback on the field for the entire season.
But if there's a dropoff in play at some point, this offense will continue to roll behind Bennett, who has stepped in once before and succeeded.
QB depth — a good problem to have in Eugene.
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