Oregon Ducks Quarterbacks Preview: Ducks Should Have Plenty Of Time To Find Backup Behind Marcus Mariota

USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Mariota is one of the best QBs in the nation, but there is a fight for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Marcus Mariota is the starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks, is a top-five quarterback in the nation, and is a legitimate Heisman contender.

Any time you can start your quarterback preview with that line, it should be a pretty good year. Mariota excelled as a redshirt freshman last season, playing extremely well in 12 of the season's 13 games (the outlier being the Stanford debacle, and Mariota readily admits his role in that game). Mariota's numbers were staggering for a redshirt freshman: 68.5% completion percentage, 2,677 yards, 32 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. He showed ability to make throws to all parts of the field, and to mostly avoid the costly turnover. He is also a dual threat guy who added another 750 yards on the ground last season. There are zero question marks here, other than the health issue that always exists in football. If Marcus Mariota stays healthy, Oregon will get some of the best quarterback play in the nation.

Of course, bad things sometimes happen. It is likely in any given season that a team will need its backup quarterback in at least one important situation. While this wasn't necessairly the case last year, backups were needed in both years of the Darron Thomas regime. Stuff happens. Fortunately, the Ducks have a couple of very talented redshirt freshmen who are sitting behind Mariota on the depth chart. Unfortunately, they have zero experience, though that should change relatively quickly as there should be plenty of time for both to see the field in some early blowouts. Graduate assistant Nate Costa, a former Oregon backup himself, has called the race too close to call, and it could continue that way a few games into the season.

Jake Rodrigues is the more haralded of the two, a four-star recruit out of Rocklin, California. Rodrigues, who stands 6'3" and 218 lbs., has all the physical tools. A dual-threat guy, Rodrigues has both the big arm and the ability to scramble, and has the skillset of the two that most resembles Mariota. Based on physial tools alone, Rodrigues should win the job.

However, that Jeff Lockie is keeping it close is a testament to him. Lockie, at 6'2", 218 lbs, doesn't have the arm or the legs that Lockie does. But he makes up for that by being the more 'cereberal' of the two. He makes excellent decisions, and has a good enough arm to be a starting QB at this level. He doesn't have anywhere near the legs that Rodrigues or Mariota does, which could be a bit more limiting in this offense, though it's worth noting that Darron Thomas excelled without being much of a runner.

Regardless of who wins the job, both should have plenty of practice reps, as Duck backups get more reps than any other in the country, and those game reps on the end of early-season blowouts as well.

Fourth string QB and former walk-on senior Dustin Haines has won the holder job this season, and therefore will get to be the point man on Oregon's two-point conversion package. However, he's seen no meaningful snaps at quarterback in his college career, and is unlikely to see any outside of holding duties and perhaps last-series mop-up against Nicholls St.

Freshman Damian Hobbs and Taylor Alie will likely redshirt the season.

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