Position Preview: Quarterbacks

Even the best laid plans blow up in your face from time to time. The idea was to post a QB review this morning, have qrsouther, axemen23 or runfast cover the afternoon scrimmage. Then we could talk all night about who we thought would win the battle of Nate Costa v. Darron Thomas. Who was more effective? Who made the right reads? Who showed the leadership the Ducks will need to repeat as Pac-10 champs?

Then I heard today the scrimmage will be closed to media and the public.

No worries, though. We’ll all know the answer about 9:05 a.m. Saturday morning.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, was it? This was supposed to be the year the Ducks made a run at back-to-back BCS bowls behind a dynamic senior QB with lots of wins and two bowl games under his belt. Costa and Thomas were going to spread their wings during mop-up duty versus the likes of New Mexico, Portland State and Wazzu. Perfect, until that plan took a wrong turn down Agate Alley. Or was it Agate Street? Map please!

So it’s Costa and Thomas. Or it’s Thomas and Costa. Everyone’s got an opinion, save the few rational types among us who place their blind faith in Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich. Reality is, we’ve got it pretty good here. Two capable QBs. Can they say the same at Stanford, Arizona, Washington, Arizona State or Oregon State? If the Pac-10 comes down to quarterback attrition, Oregon should be in good shape.

It might be fair to call Nate Costa the front runner, if for no other reason than he started and finished a conference win at UCLA last year. He’s the senior. He’s been in the program longest.

Costa’s body of work is limited, but largely positive. He came in during the second quarter versus WSU after Jeremiah Masoli got banged up last season. With the game well in hand early, Costa ran a conservative offense to 17 points after Masoli’s exit. He completed 7-of-9 for 80 yards and rushed six times for 26 yards and a touchdown. The following week Costa started on the road at UCLA, and again the offense was pretty vanilla. Costa was 9-of-17 for 82 yards, with a touchdown and one INT. He made mostly good reads and the running game won the day.

Spectacular? No. In the end, however, Nate was somewhat effective. He did what he needed to do to secure the wins.

Darron Thomas’ body of work is more of the spectacular nature.

Thrown into the fire after a failed baptism on the part of since-departed Chris Harper, Thomas nearly engineered a colossal fourth-quarter comeback against Boise State in 2008. He completed 13-of-25 for 210 yards and three TDs, but also threw a costly interception. Thomas was one of few bright spots on an otherwise sucky day to be a Duck fan.

Then came more fireworks. Thomas showed athletic ability when he rushed six times for 24 yards and a touchdown late against WSU. He caught the Beavers napping on a trick play that resulted in a 35-yard completion to Jaison Williams Jeff Maehl in the 65-38 game. Like I said, exciting stuff. Just not a lot of it. And it was in 2008.

Chip Kelly has been crystal clear. One guy is going to be THE guy. Which one? I have no clue.

Costa has his believers. Thomas has his. Some people believe both can be effective. Others are worried that neither can replicate Masoli at the top of his game. We’re collectively putting a lot of weight on nearly every practice session, because we fans have so little else to go on. At the exact moment the UO media department releases today's scrimmage stats, I expect to see no less than half a dozen guys posting those on ATQ simultaneously – maybe Jared or Dave can assign it to someone so we can contain the discussion to one thread.

Whoever gets the job, will be taking the keys to a finely tuned scoring machine. If you’ve read the other offensive previews, you get it. The Oregon QB will line up behind a deep, talented and experienced offensive line. He’ll hand off to one of several speedy, shifty running backs capable of exploding to the house on any play. And he’ll put the ball in the hands of a talented group of receivers and tight ends. When he makes a mistake, a very, very solid defense will have his back.

All the parts are there for double-digit wins. Nate, Darron, try not to screw it up.

So, what about the loser in this competition?

Of course, loser isn’t at all the right word. No. 2 could be no. 1 following any given play in any given practice or game. He’ll need to be ready. More important, he’ll need to be mature in taking his place as the back-up, a notion which was aptly fleshed out in a post Tuesday by Dale Newton over at duckstopshere.blogspot.com. Newton writes that on Saturday, the most important Duck quarterback will be the guy who does not get the starting nod.

 

"All his teammates will be watching. The fans and media will be watching. Does he hang his head? Is he sulking and detached and going through the motions? Or he is engaged, involved, with his chinstrap buckled and his eyes on the defense, shadowing every rep?"

 

Oregon has taken so many huge strides as a program the past two decades – just ask benzduck. This will be yet another important moment. As Chip Kelly continues to pile up talented recruits, some potentially high-profile players will need to show teammates the right way to not win a job, how to react, and how fight through that adversity. Young guys like Bryan Bennett, Lache Seastrunk, Dontae Williams and Dior Mathis will be watching. So will key two-deep veterans like Javes Lewis, Ryan Clanton, Marvin Johnson and Bryson Littlejohn.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d suggest that both Nate Costa and Darron Thomas are going to come up big this season. One on the field, and, perhaps, the other on the sidelines.

 

Note: Right now, this is a two-horse race, so I didn't focus on other QBs in camp. Most of you have read the fall camp recaps - Bryan Bennett looks great one moment and like a true freshman another. If all hell breaks loose - it has before - he'd be the number three guy. Bennett will be big story for the Ducks...let's hope that's next year. Daryle Hawkins is now taking running back reps and would be an emergency play at best. Walk-on holdover Dustin Haines will help with scout team reps.

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