— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor
I didn’t think I was going to be writing much about college football for this column. Sure, I could’ve written a blurb or two about how boring the BCS championship game was, but who hasn’t? And LaMichael James made his decision to enter the NFL draft last week, so I figured there’d be a chance to now switch gears in the sporting world for at least a 14 day spell. (The interest in this game really never really ends in this town, but sometimes you can get a slight reprieve).
Seriously, I had planned to talk about the recent road sweep of the Arizona schools by the Oregon men’s basketball team. The fact that the Ducks were able to take two in the desert could be a real boon for this bunch, and now they really could be playing for higher stakes this year. At any other time, this would be one of my many topics for this piece.
No, I won’t be able to do that after I got a press release in my e-mail box early Saturday evening. It stated that Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas was following James in making the jump to the NFL.
Honestly, I looked at it five times to make sure it wasn’t a practical joke. There was nothing that suggested he was going to make this move before his senior season. But the message is genuine and you’re not alone in scratching your head.
“I came to this decision on behalf of myself and my family,” Thomas said in the statement. “I have a dream of playing in the NFL and I’m going to pursue those dreams. I would like to thank everyone in Oregon for all their support and I would thank the coaches for all their help, especially Coach (Chip) Kelly. I love my teammates and wish them the best of luck, and am confident they will continue the winning tradition that has been established. Last but not least, I thank all the Oregon fans for their help and support.”
Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t seem like the strongest statement a guy could make in this matter. I wouldn’t be shocked if Kelly spends between now and Wednesday (when Thomas’ decision becomes final) trying to get him to change his mind.
It’s not that losing Thomas would mean a slip in the Rose Bowl Champions’ performance for the 2012 season. Bryan Bennett, arguably, might have a more accurate arm and he definitely has more mobility. He also showed he could fill those shoes admirably this past year when Thomas has injured, and he’ll have plenty of weapons like Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and Colt Lyerla to work with.
What it might mean, though, is that Darron Thomas could be rushing into something before he is ready. As I said earlier, his numbers might be similar to some of the other top quarterbacks entering the draft. But that’s actually a reason for him not to go.
Most of these guys will probably get picked ahead of Thomas. So while you should be surprised by his current choice, you shouldn’t be stunned if he ends up signing with a team as an undrafted free agent. Then, it’ll be about struggling just to stay on the roster.
All that said, I could be wrong about Thomas on this one and it wouldn’t be the first time. After Jeremiah Masoli got the boot prior to the 2010 season, I insisted that Nate Costa should’ve be the starting quarterback because he was the older, steadier hand. I didn’t think Thomas, then a redshirt sophomore, was ready to lead the offense.
Boy, was I incorrect on about that. He took the starting reins with authority and led the Ducks to two consecutive BCS Bowls during his now-ended college career.
Furthermore, I’ve always liked Thomas. When I did a cover story for Eugene Magazine on the Oregon offense over a year ago, he struck me as a fairly level-headed kid. I remember when I handed him a copy of the issue, he thanked me for everything. I really do, even though I disagree with this action, wish him the best of luck. He’s going to need it.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.