Sports Desk: Are You Ready for Some Football?
Excitement in Eugene has perhaps never been higher for football season. We’re less than a week away from the start of prep football and the No. 5 Oregon Ducks football team’s return from its first Rose Bowl victory since 1917.
News broke Friday morning of Chip Kelly’s decision to name redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback for Oregon’s opener September 1st against Arkansas State. Fans and analysts debated throughout training camp, and it took up until a week before the season to decide on the guy.
Former players and coaches have been raving about Mariota’s potential with many saying we could be seeing an even more athletic Denis Dixon.
Fans were introduced to the fleet-footed Hawaiian on Saturday for Oregon’s annual fan day experience. After morning workouts and practices, players entertained thousands of eager Ducks fans for hours by signing autographs and talking a little football.
At least two thousand, like many more, flocked in to have their free 2012 season posters and spirit tees signed. Players set up at booths with the superstars spread out at different spots. Mariota was with receiver Josh Huff and kicker Rob Beard. The second table had second-string QB Bryan Bennett with Jennings Stewart and Ryan Clanton.
Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas each were fan favorites as their respective lines went hundreds deep. Oregon’s cheerleaders were also in attendance and performed throughout the festivities.
Fan Day was a giant reminder what an amazing gift this experience has been and how much it means to me to represent this university— Carson York (@CarsonYork) August 25, 2012
Another bit of news was the questionable absence of Carson York from Oregon’s two-deep released Friday as well. It appears the all-conference lineman is still recovering from his nasty injury in the Rose Bowl. With a light few weeks before Arizona in week four, Oregon coaches may be resting York for a 100% return.
Moving away from the Ducks and over to prep, local high school teams are preparing for Friday and the start of 2012. The Sheldon Irish returns a plethora of talent from its nearly perfect run last season. Sheldon, unfortunately, came up short of a perfect season in a blowout loss to Lake Oswego in the state championship.
Irish coach Lane Johnson must replace quarterback Dillon Miller, but the return of senior Connor Strahm has Irish faithful seeing huge potential again. Strahm, a top-notch wide receiver and linebacker, is one of the best prep players in the Eugene area and will no doubt begin receiving serious attention from potential colleges. Sheldon opens their season on Friday night at home against Southridge.
In 5A, Marist will have the daunting task of replacing legendary receiver Taylor Walcott, a task not easily done. Quarterback Kamerun Smith (6’5” 185 lbs) returns for his senior season, hoping to leading the Spartans to a state title. Marist opens up Friday night at Bend.
Marist’s toughest competition, locally, is the Churchill Lancers who are excited for the 2012 season as well. The Lancers finished the 2011 season 5-4 and missed out on postseason action. With more stability at the quarterback position and one of the best offensive/defensive linemen in the entire country in Skyler Phillips, Churchill will be a tough team to beat.
Sports editor Alex Shoemaker will discuss the issues, events, and biggest stories in Eugene area sports every Sunday morning. Email him for ideas on other story ideas worth covering.