Oregon Ducks QB Battle: Bennett vs. Mariota Debate
The Ducks have had their fair share of QB competitions over the past decade. The most recent came in 2010 when the Ducks were forced to pick between the veteran Nate Costa and the young stud in Darron Thomas. Oregon, and head coach Chip Kelly eventually sided with Thomas and played in the national championship game that season.
The Ducks once again must choose between two stud QBs in redshirt freshmen Marcus Mariota and sophomore Bryan Bennett. The Ducks have until September 1st to make their decision. Coach Kelly has never gone with a two-quarterback system, but is this the year that all changes? The sports writers at EDN make their case here of who think SHOULD win the job this summer.
Marcus Mariota (3 votes)
Alex Shoemaker (Sports Editor)
While most fans’, and analysts’, perception of Marcus Mariota comes from one spring game performance, the display that he put on is something that may be talked about for a long time. He completed 18-of-26 passes (69.2 percent) for 202 yards with one touchdown with one interception. Even more impressively, he rushed for 99 yards on six carries with two TD runs of 14 and 82 yards.
But it wasn’t just the numbers in the game. Mariota controlled that game, and appeared to be more mentally in control of the team. Bennett was flustered after his two interceptions and didn’t carry the poise that Mariota did. But whoever Chip ultimately goes with, Ducks fans should feel very confident going forward.
Can I pick both? After Chip Kelly neglected to write off the possibility of a dual quarterback system at last week’s team media day, the idea of opposing defenses having to prepare for both Mariota and Bennett taking snaps has danced around my head. Forced to pick one, however, I give the small edge to Marcus Mariota.
I don’t take too much out of Mariota and Bennett’s spring game performances – Bennett’s physical running style was not as well suited for the one-hand-touch rule as Mariota’s straight sprint style, but Bennett’s obvious on field frustrations set off a bit of a red flag. An offense such as the Ducks’ needs a cool, calm, and collected leader at the helm, and indications are that Mariota fits that mold.
Furthermore, having worked closely with fellow redshirt freshman breakout candidates at wide receiver, Devon Blackmon and B.J. Kelley, we could be witnessing the start of a youth movement in the Ducks’ aerial attack.
In Bennett, the Ducks get a huge arm who isn’t afraid to tuck it and run. He was called to meaningful action in two games last season, leading the Ducks to scoring drives on their first four possessions in his only start against Colorado, and helping to spark a win in second-half action in a nationally televised match-up with Arizona State. This offseason, Bennett drew favorable reviews from NFL scouts on his arm strength and conditioning. He also has two years in Kelly’s system compared to Mariota’s one.
With the edge in experience, raw talent and time to learn the system, Bennett should come out fall camp with the job. However, talent alone is not what Chip and his staff is looking for. Bennett’s insufficiencies in throwing accuracy, mechanics, poise and command of the offense will likely force Kelly’s hand into picking the cool, confident Hawaiian—Marcus Mariota.
Bryan Bennett (3 votes)
Bryan Bennett SHOULD win the Ducks’ quarterback job. Marcus Mariota has a lot of potential, but Bennett has already shown he can play at a high level. Bennett is familiar with the big-game atmospheres and the up-tempo offense being a backup last year to Darron Thomas. Bennett did well in games during a Thomas absence and had six touchdowns to zero interceptions in his eight game appearances in 2011. Mariota did play well in the spring game but Bennett was far from a slouch. Bennett, who’s run a 4.5 40, has to already have a certain respect in the huddle while Mariota, no matter what, is still earning that respect and command.
Bennett got to hear the crowd during the Rose Bowl victory against Wisconsin. Bennett got to experience the emotion of last year’s home game loss to USC. Those types of in-game experiences are only going to assist Bennett in visits to the Coliseum and a highly likely Pac-12 Championship game that could have National Championship implications.
When the Ducks take the field against Arkansas State on September 1, it should be Bryan Bennett taking the snaps. Why? One word; experience. Bennett has the experience of commanding the offense for sixty minutes in a dominant 45-2 win over Colorado last season. In that game, Bennett completed 11 of his 20 passes for 156 yards, while adding 69 rushing yards on six carries. Bennett has already earned himself the starting job.
By the time the season starts, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly will realize this and rightfully hand Bennett the reigns to one of the most lethal offenses in the nation.
In what is sure to be the dominating debate of the Duck’s preseason, and perhaps beyond, sophomore Brian Bennett and red-shirt freshman Marcus Mariota will surely each have their staunch supporters. Bennett played in a few games last year, most notably in a comeback win over Arizona St., and looked the part.
Mariota answered with a very impressive spring game performance, where he outperformed Bennett both running and passing. Without the benefit of seeing both signal callers in practice, there really isn’t a lot of information to go on. But if I had to pick one guy for the starters role? I’ll go with Bennett.
Although his experience is minimal, there is no substitute for live game action, and Mariota has not had a taste of that yet. Plus Bennett has spent an extra year in the Ducks system, soaking up Coach Kelly’s intricate offense. In a photo finish, it’s Bennett by a nose.
The debate is so close, that the six writers were split at three for each QB. Leave your vote below for who YOU think should be the next quarterback for the Oregon Ducks. Take a look at the 2012 Oregon Spring Game and pick for yourself.