Oregon’s Quarterback Replacement: Replacing Offensive Production
Oregon is in a familiar situation with a new starting quarterback headed in to the next season. Darron Thomas was the only quarterback in the last six years to start the first game of the season more than once. After Darron Thomas’ surprise departure to the NFL that shocked everyone other than close friends of Thomas, there is now a quarterback competition between two of the most talented quarterbacks have had.
Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota and last year’s backup Bryan Bennett are two quarterbacks who were picked specifically by Chip Kelly to run his offense. What’s most important to remember heading in to this season is that Chip Kelly now has his ideal type players throughout the roster. There are incredibly fast receivers who can block, the fastest running backs in the country, and quarterbacks that can throw and run. This is important when considering the quarterback competition.
In past years the competition came down to quarterbacks who were perceived to be runners and quarterbacks who were perceived to be pocket passers. If one quarterback won over the other it would mean the offense would be very different the next season. Mostly, arguments among fans over who should start fit with what offense each wanted to watch. This year, the two quarterbacks are so similar that there won’t be a notable difference in offensive strategy regardless of who is starting.
The biggest difference between these two quarterbacks is that Bryan Bennett has more experience after being in the program longer and actually getting snaps last season. I can’t overstate enough how impressive Bryan Bennett was in the games he played, sometimes executing better than Darron Thomas such as in the Washington State game. While Darron Thomas may have been the better fit last year, both Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett have much higher ceilings than Thomas did.
I have my own opinion though on the quarterback position at Oregon, largely it doesn’t matter who starts. Chip Kelly has gotten great quarterback play from everyone who took the position. Backups always seem ready and the starters rarely made mistakes. Largely, the quarterback position at Oregon is simply a distributor who calls the right plays at the line, and sometimes runs the ball to keep the defense honest.
Teams that rely heavily on their quarterbacks to produce yards, such as the Baylor Bears and the Boise State Broncos, are going to have a very hard time to replace the position. Teams that rely on their starter for passing and running always have a hard time replacing their offense because one player can produce 60% of the offense. Oregon on the other hand, has historically been very good at replacing quarterbacks.
In 2009 Jeremiah Masoli accounted for 52.6% of the offense. The next year Darron Thomas’ Ducks had a 12-1 season that resulted in a national title game appearance, a big improvement on the 10-3 season the year prior. Darron Thomas only accounted for 40.5% of the offensive production last year, meaning that this is going to be one of the easiest position replacements in the country and possibly ever at the quarterback position in Oregon football.
The Oregon offense is so good at spreading the ball to whoever has speed and is space that the quarterback is only relied on to call the right plays and distribute the ball. Now the quarterbacks are picked because they excel at running this type of offense. The real pressure this season is on Kenjon Barner to replace the best running back ever at Oregon.