2012 DuckNews Preview: Quarterback

Bryan Bennett appeared in three games last season

“Prior to the ball being snapped, the clock ran to zero. The game is over.”

Those words by head referee Brad Allen ended the 2012 Rose Bowl and gave Oregon it’s first win in the Granddaddy of them All for the first time since 1917. That would be 95 years.

Now it’s time for the encore.

The only thing left on the list that Chip Kelly hasn’t done as head coach is win the national championship. Oregon has won the conference three straight times, been to two Rose Bowls and made a BCS National Championship appearance.

The national championship is hosted by the Orange Bowl in Miami this season and while Ducks fans may not want to buy their plane tickets just yet it might be wise to bookmark Priceline.com in their browsers, just in case.

The Ducks open the season as the No. 5 team in the nation, but as they go through fall camp in preparation for the Sept. 1 opener against Arkansas St., Oregon has a number of questions to answer. Luckily for Oregon, the non-conference schedule this year is the envy of every team in the SEC and the Ducks should the entire month of September to answer these questions.

Here is our 2012 preview:

QUARTERBACK

With the early departure of Darron Thomas, the Ducks need to find the next wave of talent at quarterback. Kelly thinks he has the talent to fill the void and most observers seem to agree as evidenced by that #5 ranking.

“Thankfully we’ll have 22 practices to figure it out,” Kelly said. “With spring practices, it will be 37 practices and we usually have a good idea of who the guy is after that. I’ve never been in a situation where it was a dead heat. One guy usually emerges.

Bennett may have been seen to hold the early advantage after a solid performance filling in against Arizona State and Colorado last season while Thomas was injured. That perception evaporated in the Spring Game when he was seriously outplayed by Mariota.

Don’t expect either factor to play into Kelly’s decision.

Two years ago, then-senior Nate Costa had the advantage over them-sophomore Darren Thomas, but after all was said and done, it was Thomas who was named the starter and he led the team to a National Championship appearance.

While those two quarterbacks were vastly different in size, experience and style, the differences between Mariota and Bennett seem negligible at best. Bennett is 6-3 and 199 pounds and Mariota is 6-4 and weighs 196 pounds. Mariota might be a little faster, but not by much. Bennett may throw the ball harder, but again not by much. This is a competition that may be determined by other measures – which is better in the film room, who moves the ones better – or even as Kelly noted “how much better does he make the twos… does he elevate the play of those around him”.

“Bryan and I are both competitors and we both want to play,” Mariota said. “Whatever happens, whether it’s him or me, we’re going to support each other. It’s a team sport and we think of the team as a family.”

Kelly expects to name his starter a week before the Arkansas State opener.