Oregon Ducks: Bryan Bennett

Five things to watch for Oregon

August, 30, 2013
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Five storylines to keep an eye on for Oregon’s game against Nicholls State.
  1. Coaching style: Few are expecting much resistance from the Colonels, a team that was in the state of Oregon last December and was blasted 77-3 by the Beavers. So if you are wondering how similar or different Mark Helfrich will be compared to Chip Kelly, this probably isn’t a good measuring-stick game. We know what Chip Kelly would do on fourth-and-3 from his own 35 – and it didn’t matter if it was Southern Middle Tennessee Tech School of Interior Design or Stanford. What kind of game manager will Helfrich be?
  2. LB spotlight: With the departures of Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan, the spotlight is on the linebackers to try to match the production of its predecessors. It’s not a young or inexperienced group by any means – just the opposite. Boseko Lokombo, Derrick Malone, Rodney Hardrick and Tony Washington have all been in the system and have experience and quality reps. While the linebackers might be a question mark on paper, chances are the group flourishes with more reps as a unit.
  3. Playing time? How long will we see the starters? In the nonconference schedule last season, the starters pretty much only played in the first half. Some argued that with more playing time and padded stats, quarterback Marcus Mariota could have been in Heisman contention. Mariota is no longer an unknown as he was before last season and coming off a quarterback competition with Bryan Bennett. But he’ll still probably play the first half, considering what the score will be 30 minutes into the game.
  4. What about DAT? Helfrich was noncommittal earlier this week when talking about the number of carries for De’Anthony Thomas, who might take on a bigger role in the rushing game this year with the departure of Kenjon Barner. However, he also said that Byron Marshall had a strong camp – and it’s more likely that he assumes Barner’s old role, which frees up Thomas to do what he does best. Don’t think of Thomas’ production in terms of carries -- think in terms of touches. Rushes, receptions, kick and/or punt returns. How many touches he gets is more vital than how many carries.
  5. Fresh faces: Right now, there are five true freshmen listed on the depth chart for this week’s game, and only one is a “starter.” Kicker Matt Wogan is listed to handle kickoffs and he has an “or” between his name and Alejandro Maldonado’s. But if the Ducks are up big early – which is expected – don’t be surprised to see running back Thomas Tyner get some carries and others such as right tackle Cameron Hunt or linebacker Tyrell Robinson could make appearances.

Oregon recruiting: Quick hitters 

January, 23, 2013
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With news flying around faster than a Mark Helfrich-led offense, DuckNation has gathered the latest developments from the recruiting trail. Coaching changes, official visitors, canceled visits, rescheduled visits and commitments taking trips elsewhere are just some of the developments in the past few days.

ESPN 300 members Cameron Hunt (Corona, Calif./Centennial), Torrodney Prevot (Houston, Texas/Alief Taylor) and Zach Cunningham (Pinson, Ala./Pinson Valley) were all in Eugene over the weekend and all three liked what they saw. Prevot, the No. 235 player in the ESPN 300 -- who could play defensive end or linebacker -- remains committed to USC, but visits to Texas A&M and Notre Dame await. He will make a final decision on signing day.

Hunt -- No. 275 in the ESPN 300 -- remains committed to California, but the offensive lineman will wait until signing day to decide. He will be in Berkeley this weekend and then return home to examine his options. Cal, Ohio State and Oregon, are the three programs he will likely choose from, as Michigan appears to be out of spots on the OL.

McEvoy could replace a transferring QB 

December, 29, 2012
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Tanner McEvoyJim Dedmon/Icon SMITanner McEvoy, shown in the 2012 spring game for South Carolina, transferred before the season to Arizona Western College. He's likely choosing between West Virginia and Oregon.
With four underclassmen at quarterback, the Oregon Ducks could lose a quarterback to transfer this offseason.

With a freshman starter, a sophomore backup and two other freshmen in reserve, the Oregon Ducks are stocked with young quarterbacks and could be faced with the departure of one of their backups in the near future. Marcus Mariota beat out expected starter Bryan Bennett last summer and is the unquestioned starter going forward, likely for multiple seasons.

There has been a steady flow of rumors surrounding Bennett's possible transfer since the day Mariota was named the starter. Redshirt freshman Jake Rodrigues or Jeff Lockie could also choose to leave with Mariota clearly in control of the position.

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Oregon recruiting mailbag: Dec. 21 

December, 21, 2012
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The holidays are here and the Ducks are getting set to push toward signing day in February. The DuckNation mailbag has been overflowing with questions. It's about time to lighten the load and get right to it.


Stephen R. (Laguna Beach, Calif.): Are the Ducks really lagging this bad in recruiting? An offensive lineman from New Jersey that Stony Brook and Delaware wouldn't offer, now has an offer from a top-five team with an almost two months left until signing day. We should be doing better!

DuckNation: I guess Chip Kelly and Steve Greatwood -- two former national coaches of the year -- should call NFL All-Pro Max Unger of the Seattle Seahawks and remind him that he isn't supposed to be any good. Unger was a recruit that nobody wanted out of Hawaii and he turned out to be ok. A lot of fans hate the term, 'trust the coaches,' but really, trust the coaches. Also, check out Jake Pisarcik's senior film and you'll likely be singing a different tune.

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A look at the latest news involving Oregon's recruiting as the Ducks try to set themselves up for a fast-and-furious finish on signing day:

The Ducks received commitments from athlete Tyrell Robinson (San Diego/Lincoln) and wide receiver Tyree Robinson (San Diego/Lincoln) in late September. After gaining huge commitments from the twins, it took nearly three months for Oregon to gain another commitment. It might have been a while, but the commitment of junior college linebacker Joe Walker (Wilmington, Calif./Harbor College) was worth the wait.

Zach Cunningham
Greg Ostendorf/ESPN.comIn its search for another linebacker, Oregon is pursuing Alabama native Zach Cunningham.
Walker isn't a big name in recruiting circles, but there's a reason Texas A&M and others were in hot pursuit of the 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker. Walker plans to sign with Oregon in two weeks and enroll in January. As a full qualifier out of Palos Verdes (Calif.) High School, Walker will have four years to complete three years of eligibility, and he will provide depth at middle linebacker to offset the loss of senior Kiko Alonso.

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Ducks roll (this is not a recording)

October, 27, 2012
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The Oregon Ducks jump out to a 56-0 lead in the first half, sit the starters, give up a couple of scores but cruise to a huge win.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The No. 4 Ducks kept to their 2012 script, pounding on the Colorado Buffaloes 70-14 at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks, per usual, struck early and often behind touchdown runs from Kenjon Barner, touchdown passes from Marcus Mariota and electrifying plays from De’Anthony Thomas on offense and special teams.

Barner put together his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game, needing just nine carries to reach 103 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Thomas was equally explosive, carrying five times for 97 yards and a score. But it was Thomas’ 73-yard punt return for a touchdown that was eye-popping. Thomas chased down the ball with his back to the opposite end zone, turned the corner, side-stepped a couple of tackles and then took off down the sidelines for the score.

In relief of Mariota, backup quarterback Bryan Bennett rushed for 73 yards and three touchdowns. Mariota finished the game 10-of-14 for 136 yards with a pair of touchdown passes. He also carried four times for 23 yards and a score.

Colorado (1-7, 1-4) picked up a pair of third-quarter touchdowns from Christian Powell, who rushed for 121 yards on 20 carries. But as many teams do, the Buffaloes found themselves in a 28-0 hole by the end of the first quarter.

Oregon (8-0, 5-0) has kept up its end of the deal and travels to Los Angeles next week undefeated for its much-anticipated showdown with USC.

Ducks recruiting mailbag 

October, 12, 2012
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It's that time again. The Ducks have a bye this week, so it's time to dig through the Oregon recruiting mailbag and see what's on your mind.

[+] EnlargeLeon McQuay III
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comCould ESPN 150 safety Leon McQuay III find himself with the Ducks?
Ruben G. (Hillsboro, Ore.):
What is going on with the Ducks' defensive line recruiting? Haven't heard hardly any news about a position that has always been tough for them.

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Ducks recruiting mailbag 

September, 7, 2012
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During an impressive blowout win over Arkansas State on Saturday night, the Oregon Ducks displayed a lot of speed, size and some of the young talent that will be the core of their team in the coming years.

Our readers seem to have taken notice of the 17 freshman that saw the field for the Ducks and wonder what type of impact that may have on Oregon's recruiting efforts in the near future.

With that, it's time to open up the mailbag again as the Ducks get set to host Fresno State tomorrow.

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Player of the Week: Pac-12

September, 3, 2012
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Lots of great choices this week, but one stood out in the mind of the Pac-12 blog: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

What makes Mariota's debut so impressive wasn't the three touchdown passes or the 200 yards on 18 of 22 passing. Or even the fact that his Ducks dropped 50 in the first half on Arkansas State.

Most impressive was the way he handled his business; cool, patient and collected. There was almost no indication that it was his first collegiate start. He was poised and dangerously efficient with no interceptions and a sparkling 81.8 completion percentage.

As we all know, Mariota was involved in a very private, very intense quarterback competition with Bryan Bennett -- last year's backup and a lot of people's pick as the presumptive starter following the departure of Darron Thomas.

But Mariota won the job and showed why he's Chip Kelly's guy Saturday night, carving up Arkansas State (with a little help from his friends) and calling it a night before the halftime festivities. For anyone who might have been on the fence following Kelly's decision, it's time to get off. Mariota's performance left little room for second guessing.

Oregon Ducks weekly mailbag 

August, 31, 2012
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It has been an interesting week for the Oregon Ducks. From naming a starting quarterback, potentially getting a transfer, official visits being set up by top recruits and the season opener against Arkansas State, it's fair to say that things are heating up in Eugene.

With a flurry of activity surrounding the program, it is now time to open up the mailbag and answer your questions.

[+] EnlargeBryan Bennett
Jim Z. Rider/US PresswireOregon sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett passed for 369 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 200 yards on 23 carries last year when he stepped in for an injured Darron Thomas.
Mike L. (Portland, Ore.): With Marcus Mariota being named the starter, it leaves Bryan Bennett with three years left as a backup. Like Mariota, freshman Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie both have four years left. Bennett has said he's staying, but I could see him or one of the freshmen leaving this season. Should the Ducks turn their quarterback recruiting up a notch for 2013?

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There are five new quarterbacks in the Pac-12 this season: Taylor Kelly at Arizona State, Jordan Webb at Colorado, Marcus Mariota at Oregon, Josh Nunes at Stanford and Brett Hundley at UCLA.

Our question this week: Which of them will have the most success this season?

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Chris Williams/Icon SMIUCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will be tested often this season.
Kevin Gemmell: Poor, poor Ted. I know your brain is mush right now. You've been grinding away so hard on the best-worst scenarios that you've got nothing left for a Take 2. Obviously, the easy choice here is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

I'll tell you what, buddy, since I'm going first this week, I'm going to leave the softball for you and take a different approach. No, no. You don't need to thank me now. Just buy me a Cuban sandwich when we're in Miami for the USC-Oregon national championship game and we'll call it even.

When you're measuring the success of a new quarterback, you have to first look at what's the definition of success. Because I think the measuring stick is going to be a lot different for Mariota than, let's say, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.

If Hundley wins eight games and takes his team to a mid-level bowl game, I'd call that a pretty successful debut season. If Mariota wins eight games and takes his team to a mid-level bowl game, Oregon would probably call 2012 a massive failure of a season. Teams that start the year ranked in the top five don't want to end up in San Diego in December -- no disrespect to this beautiful city I'm blessed to call home.

The Bruins, however, I think would be awfully pleased with an appearance in the Holiday Bowl.

Consider what Hundley is up against: a new head coach, who by the way has never coached in college (that's not a knock on Jim Mora, just a fact), a new offensive coordinator with an offense that is a complete 180 from what the Bruins were running previously, and while I think UCLA has some playmakers, Hundley doesn't have the weapons around him that Mariota does. Also, most would agree at this point that Oregon has the superior offensive line.

But I think Hundley overcomes all of that to lead his team to seven or eight wins and a pretty decent bowl game. The reason I think that -- aside from the fact that Hundley is a very talented player -- is because of UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and the way he transforms quarterbacks. His system is proven, even if Hundley is not, and it's going to allow Hundley to do what he does best: sling the ball around to a lot of different receivers and make plays with his feet when it's needed.

This was the same offense that produced 33 points per game last year when Mazzone was with Arizona State and dropped 43 on the USC Trojans; the same offense that averaged 32 points per game in 2010 that went for more than 40 points four times. Some might remember the 55 they scored on the Bruins that year.

Because of all the immediate factors working against Hundley, people are going to allow him a little more wiggle room to develop than they would Mariota.

And I think you can say the same thing for Josh Nunes at Stanford, Taylor Kelly at ASU or even an experienced newcomer like Jordan Webb at Colorado. They have the luxury of working their way into success, rather than instant success being demanded.

Huh, maybe Mariota isn't such a slam dunk after all. I guess the Cuban sandwiches are on me.

Ted Miller: Thanks for making things easy on me, Kevin.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Steve Conner/Icon SMIBetween a stellar supporting cast and a proven coach, the stage is set for Marcus Mariota at Oregon.
I've been reading the tea leaves, and Marcus Mariota is going to be a revelation.

Now it's perfectly fair for someone to point out that I've only see Mariota in action once -- his much-ballyhooed performance in the 2012 spring game. So my -- and anyone else's -- sample size for extrapolating success is extremely limited.

Still, there are three things that make him the pick for immediate success.

First, he beat out Bryan Bennett, a guy who has long been touted and who played very well in relief of an injured Darron Thomas last year. If Mariota is better than Bennett, then he's got to be pretty darn good.

Second, his supporting cast will make him look good. He's got plenty of offensive weapons surrounding him as well as a top-notch offensive line. He doesn't have to throw it 40 yards to get a 40 yard completion. He merely needs to dump it to Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas or Josh Huff and let them do the legwork. The stat sheet doesn't make a distinction.

Third, who's the coach of this team? That's right, Chip Kelly. What's his track record with quarterbacks at Oregon? Let's review.

Oregon fans hated Dennis Dixon -- oh, yes you did! -- until Kelly arrived in 2007. Dixon went from being an infuriating underachiever who threw a lot of interceptions to the nation's top Heisman Trophy candidate until he blew out his knee.

Then, after Nate Costa blew out his knee before the 2008 season, Kelly was left with, well, just about nobody. Recall that Jeremiah Masoli was a summer addition to the roster whom no one had heard of. He led the Ducks to a Holiday Bowl victory and then to the first of three conference titles in 2009.

And when Masoli got the boot, Kelly surprised many when he tapped Thomas over Costa. Thomas then led the Ducks to the national title game and a Rose Bowl victory.

Think how good the Ducks' QB play has been since Kelly arrived in Eugene. Now, how many of these former Ducks quarterbacks had NFL success? It's obvious that Kelly finds ways to make his QB successful.

And guess what: Mariota is the most physically talented signal-caller Kelly has coached. He could become the first Kelly QB to become a high NFL draft pick and then a starter.

Sure, the bar has been set high. Anything less than another BCS bowl appearance would disappoint most Oregon fans. But, as things look at present, the odds are fairly good the Ducks will receive a fourth consecutive BCS bowl berth.

Finally, there is always this: Mariota is a redshirt freshman. He's, inevitably, going to have some boneheaded moments. But his youth also means the Ducks -- and Kelly -- will have him for at least three more seasons. (If he opted to leave for the NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore year, well, he'd probably be pretty darn good).

That's the consolation if he's merely pretty good this year: He's got plenty of time to become outstanding.

But the guess here is Mariota puts up plenty of numbers as a dual-threat this season. And leaves us with plenty of "Wow!" moments.
After a long battle that led to much speculation and many predictions, the Oregon Ducks have a starting quarterback.

The Ducks named redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota the starter. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Mariota battled with third-year sophomore Bryan Bennett all throughout the spring and summer. On Friday, it was announced that Mariota had earned the job.

Mariota has drawn many comparisons to former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon for his smooth demeanor, athleticism and ball fakes in the spread option. The biggest difference? Mariota is more polished than Dixon was at this stage in his career.

Dixon had a magical senior year that might have ended with a Heisman Trophy and a national championship in 2007 if not for a season-ending knee injury. Before his senior season, Dixon was a great athlete with a lot of upside. Once Kelly arrived, Dixon went from an enigma to the best player in college football.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
AP Photo/Don RyanRedshirt freshman Marcus Mariota was named Oregon's starting quarterback.
Mariota was redshirted last season as he developed under Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. The Ducks had junior Darron Thomas as a second-year starter and hoped to bring Mariota and Bennett, Thomas' backup last season, along slowly.

Thomas decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft, leaving the Ducks in what many perceived to be a tough spot. But there are those inside the program who believe Bennett and Mariota both bring better athleticism and overall ability than Thomas. They just don't have the experience.

But Thomas didn't have experience when Jeremiah Masoli was booted from the team before the 2010 season. Thomas rose to the occasion and guided the Ducks to their greatest season ever. With his departure, it is Mariota's turn to take the keys to the offense.

Mariota quickly rose to the occasion and had the Ducks faithful on the edge of its seats during the spring game. His performance sparked memories of Dixon's 2007 season that left fans wishing that Chip Kelly would have connected with Dixon before his senior year.

Oregon fans watched nine games of Dixon at his best. With four years of eligibility left, Mariota has the potential to do what Dixon couldn't finish during his senior year.

Many expected the Ducks to take a step back when Masoli was dismissed from the team. Masoli was effective, but he had limits on what he could do. Thomas set records and took the Ducks to new heights while displaying a unique style that left people thinking how good he could be if he tightened up his game.

Mariota is already more polished than Masoli or Thomas. The two previous quarterbacks made amazing plays for the Ducks and had legendary two-year careers in Eugene. They also left fans holding their breath in anticipation of both good and bad.

Now the Oregon program is looking at a future with a possible four-year starter who is already ahead of the game.

Speaking of games, the only one fans have seen Mariota involved in was the Ducks' spring scrimmage. Now he has to prove it against real opponents. An easy opening schedule should provide ample opportunity for Mariota to sharpen things up. It starts Sept. 1 against Arkansas State.
Outside of the quarterback battle between Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett, two of the biggest position battles in Oregon's fall camp have been in the secondary.

With the issues and eventual dismissal of Cliff Harris, the Ducks rotated three freshmen at cornerback in 2011. Terrance Mitchell, Ifo-Ekpre Olomu and Troy Hill all learned on the fly but showed great promise. Mitchell seemingly has one starting spot locked up while Hill and Ekpre-Olomu are battling for the starting spot on the other side of the field.

Even more highly contested has been the competition for the starting job at the "rover" position. The departure of Eddie Pleasant left juniors Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson battling each other while trying to hold off sophomore Erick Dargan. All three are more than capable of starting and all will see significant action this year.

After Monday's practice, Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal announced that Jackson has done enough to earn the start.

Neal talked about Jackson's progression as a player when he credited Jackson for "playing better than he ever has."

According to Neal, Jackson has always been a "steady, dependable guy," who has taken his game to the next level. Under Neal's direction, Pleasant evolved from someone struggling to find the right position to a first-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2011.

Neal sees much of the same in Jackson, a junior from Hoover High School in Alabama.

No longer just a "dependable guy," Neal says Jackson is now "excelling at the position," which is what he has been looking for from the three candidates throughout the spring and summer.

"He's a guy that can help us win games we need to win," Neal said.

Along with Pleasant, Patterson emerged as one of the team's most improved players as a sophomore. Patterson has the speed, coverage ability and tackling ability to rotate throughout the defensive backfield, giving Neal and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti another weapon to throw at opposing offenses. The junior will likely see a similar role to last season, when he was the extra corner in most of the Ducks' nickel packages.

Dargan, who played alongside Patterson at Pittsburg High School in Northern California, will see plenty of action as he has impressed coaches and teammates alike throughout the offseason with his work ethic and ball-hawking abilities. Dargan will be in the hunt for a starting spot again in 2013 as the Ducks will need to replace free safety John Boyett.

With Oregon loaded at defensive line and linebacker, the deep and talented secondary should have plenty of opportunities to make plays this fall. Jackson might have earned the starting job, but Patterson and Dargan will be given plenty of chances to show they are more than capable of being the starter.

The way the Oregon secondary coach sees it, that's fine by him.

Notes on Oregon's preseason camp 

August, 17, 2012
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Nearly two weeks into Oregon fall camp, there is plenty of speculation as to who has the upper hand in the position battles and who has put themselves in position to see the field early on.

All eyes are on the ongoing quarterback battle between sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota.

When it comes to discussing his team, Ducks head coach Chip Kelly plays everything close to the vest. There is no greater example of this than when it comes to who will be given the keys to his high-flying offense.

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Bennett-MariotaGetty Images/AP PhotoBryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota will battle for Oregon's starting QB job throughout August.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly has no use for depth charts before preseason camp is over. He sees 22 practices before earnest game preparation begins for the Sept. 1 opener against Arkansas State. A lot can happen in 22 practices.

"Everything is open," he said.

Sure, there's a little bit of coach-speak there. With 14 starters back from the 2011 Pac-12 champions, as well as plenty of key backups, it's actually not terribly difficult to project most of the Ducks' starting positions. There are plenty of the usual suspects, from Kenjon Barner, to Dion Jordan, to John Boyett, to Michael Clay to De'Anthony Thomas to Jackson Rice.

But Kelly isn't one to obsess about crowning starters on a depth chart even when games begin. To him, a strong two-deep is the thing to remain the Pac-12 king.

"I think we've really developed depth here the last couple of years," he said. "Everybody understands that. It's not about being the No. 1 guy. It's about being in the rotation."

Ah, but there is one special spot that will keep Ducks fans agog and, really, is one of the major preseason questions in all of college football: Who's going to replace Darron Thomas at quarterback? Marcus Mariota, who had the standout spring game? Or Bryan Bennett, who stepped in admirably for an injured Thomas a year ago?

“I’ve got a lot of faith -- after seeing Bryan for a couple years now, and Marcus for a full year now -- in both those guys’ abilities to play,” Kelly said.

A top-five preseason ranking in just about every poll, including the recently released coaches poll, suggests many share Kelly's faith that QB won't be a big issue. But faith isn't certainty. Competing for the starting job is one thing. Leading a top-five team is another. Just because Dennis Dixon blossomed and Jeremiah Masoli and Thomas had success as first-year starters under Kelly doesn't mean that will always be the case, and Kelly admitted as much.

"Their first snap is going to be really our first look at how they handle it," he said. "I anticipate them being very successful, but we’ll see. That’s obviously a big question for all of us.”

Kelly also said he's not opposed to playing two guys, though he said his experience in such competitions is there's typically a clear winner.

As far as what Kelly is looking for out of his starter, it's a mixture of measurable performance -- efficiency, protecting the football, running the plays correctly -- and less tangible things -- leadership, instincts, moxie, etc.

"I can't give you a concrete thing -- a 'hey, I need to see this,' " he said.

Of course, fans and media won't see much of anything as practices and scrimmages are closed. While scuttlebutt will certainly get out, it will be difficult to know how reliable it is. Here's a guess there will be conflicting reports from players who enjoy toying with media, students and other fans trying to pry out tidbits of information. It's unlikely anything will be official before Aug. 24, and Kelly may even wait until the Monday before the season-opener.

Everyone in the know, however, knows it's going to be Mariota. No, Bennett. No, Mariota. Bennett!

Let the speculation begin.

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