Darron is gone you say?
PANIC! EVERYONE STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND PANIC RIGHT NOW! ARE YOU PANICKING WITH ME? GOOD! PANIC SOME MORE! AND..... stop. Ok, enough panic for now. But when Darron Thomas pulls a Sanchez and leaves us early, it's always good to get a little panic in every now and again. I personally recommend at least 3 minutes and 51 seconds of panic every hour to maintain peak panic condition.
First things first: I love Darron Thomas. Like man-crush love. Over the past 4 seasons (fBSU 2008 anyone) I viewed him as the future of the program, and boy did he deliver. Sure, he may have thrown high every once and awhile, but the guy only lost 3 games as a starter. THREE GAMES. You can't argue with results. But this article is not about Darron Thomas. It's about those 3 guys who were going to be behind him on the depth chart: Bryan Bennett, Marcus Mariota and Jake Rodrigues
This is going to be a pretty video intense article and is also going to be fairly lengthy, I hope you all don't mind.
This is also purely my opinion. Don't take what I say and apply it to all Oregon Fans. There will be no generalizations here.
The pickle we are in now is the almost same as it was three years ago when Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the program. Nate Costa was the experienced, mobile quarterback who knew the sytem and could be trusted in big games. This is much like Bryan Bennett this year. We know what he brings to the table when he is given a limited playbook and good athletes around him. Marcus Mariota is much like Darron Thomas, an unproven talent who has impressed in camps. However, he hasn't had the benefit of Darron Thomas' extra year in the system and might not know the whole playbook back to front. This is all just speculation though and some pretty broad comparisons between the situations
There is one more Quarterback involved though, true freshman Jake Rodrigues. I don't see Jake challenging for the starting job this year coming off his horrific injury in his High School Playoffs. However, he is already enrolled in classes this term and should be able to spend Spring Ball studying the playbook with Chip and the other QBs. What I do see in Jake from his film is that he is runs a bit more physical than I've seen Bennett run but also a bit slower. To me, he looks like a taller Masoli and I would even go so far as to say he could be a less athletic Cam Newton. Most of his highlight video is behind paywalls, however he was at the Elite 11 camp over the summer and he showed good arm strength and accuracy, but seemed to struggle with confidence. At times he can have happy feet in the pocket but he still has good throwing mechanics and can make all the necessary throws in our offense. I have no doubt that in a years time he will project well into Chip Kelly's plans, but for the moment most of our judgement on him will have to come from Fall camp.
The battle with most likely come down to Bennett and Mariota, and no matter who will run the offense, I think it will be in good hands.
Let's start with Bryan Bennett.
We know what Bryan brings to the table thanks to his contributions in heavy playing time in the Arizona State, Colorado and Washington State games due to Darron's injury and other games as a mop-up man. He has a quick release and good footwork, but has the Masoli tendency of throwing the ball at 100 mph even when he doesn't have to. That being said, he can have incredible touch on the ball (see the screen pass to DeAnthony Thomas and the touchdown throw to David Paulson on the videos below). Much has been made about his inability to go through progressions, and you can see times in the video below where he seems to be looking at a receiver throughout the whole route. He does do a good job of getting the ball to receivers and running backs in spaces where they can make plays. Looking back at Eric Dungy's touchdown reception against Missouri State, you can see that Bennett got Eric the ball right where he could make a quick juke and get to the endzone. There is also the great swing pass to DAT in the Washington State game that allowed him to get to the second level quick and eventually make Tyree Toomer look silly.
Jeremiah Masoli ( all via madmike1951)
Running the ball he has what you would call "deceptive speed", although I hate the term. He makes quick decisions in the zone read, and even if he makes the wrong call he has the athletic ability to nullify any damages. He definitely seems in the mold of Masoli when it comes to deceiving people with the mesh handoff, which will be invaluable next year with possibly Kenjon and DAT in the backfield at the same time. When a passing play breaks down he also has the ability to scramble for big gains, like his 49 yarder against Colorado. He doesn't shy away from contact, but he doesn't try to initiate it to the same extent Masoli did.
Now let's move on to Marcus Mariota.
I am going to say something really bold. Marcus Mariota is the closest I've seen to Dennis Dixon. He is incredibly athletic for a 6'4" kid, and it all looks so smooth. He runs like a combination of Dennis Dixon and Colin Kaepernick, where he takes long strides and swallows up ground. From his high school tape he looks strong enough to break arm tackles and can make those quick cuts in open space to gain extra yards. Probably the most impressive part of his running game though is his understanding of the mesh point and making the quick decisions necessary to keep the defense honest. Of the three quarterbacks, Mariota might be the most balanced in terms of passing and running, but that by no stretch of the imagination means he is average.
The thing about Mariota's passing game that is most impressive to me is his short throwing motion, again reminding me of one Dennis Dixon. Usually tall quarterbacks have a long throwing motion, but he doesn't seem to take a long time at all when he's getting rid of the ball. He shows good arm strength, but even better accuracy and ball placement, and he complements this with outstanding feet during the throw. As BGWM pointed out to me yesterday, he shows incredible poise after being flushed from the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and looking to pass first then run. One of the most impressive throws in his arsenal is the backside shoulder on the go route, which we saw so much of from Dennis Dixon to Jaison Williams, Brain Paysinger and Terrence Scott. You can teach a quarterback to read a defense, but you can't teach that kind of touch on a ball.
(via keeerrrttt and Hawaii Sports Hawaii)
By the way, cheers for all the youtube highlights keeerrrttt. I definitely have spent too much time watching those.
What can we expect in the coming offseason?
I would expect both quarterbacks to split a lot of reps during Spring Practice, with Chip holding off who he announces as starter until Fall Camp. With either QB, as we all have said in earlier threads, I think we'll see a shift to a more balanced offense with all the wide receiver talent we have on the field. No matter what, Spring Practice will be a huge indicator of what Chip wants to do with the offense and who he thinks will be a better threat on the field. Personally, and I said this yesterday, I think that Mariota has better skills than Bennett, but either one is going to be a great replacement for Darron.
Once again, Darron, thanks so much, you will always be one of my favorite Ducks. Go help your Mum out, yeah?