Oregon Ducks: Jake Rodrigues
- They're certainly not shying away from any Heisman hype at this point in the year. On quarterback Marcus Mariota, Frost said, "We certainly think we have the best one in the country" and that "he throws better than anyone in the country." Well Jameis Winston, there you have it.
- I was curious about Mariota's injury situation -- a lot of times when guys come back there might be some hesitation or some ounce of doubt still in their minds about their knee, or ankle or whatever. Frost isn't worried about it. He said that even a few weeks after the injury Mariota wanted to get the knee brace off. Frost also said that Mariota would've run for 200 yards in the bowl game (he rushed for 133 yards) but he was out of shape from the injury.
- As far as the quarterback-not-named-Mariota situation, redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie is the No. 2 guy this season ("without question," Frost said.). Frost doesn't seem concerned that the only backups on the roster at this point are Lockie and redshirt freshman Taylor Alie. Lockie was 8-of-13 last season for 57 yards and one interception. Alie is a local walk-on, but Frost did note how impressed he was with Alie's spring.
- Alie will likely be the holder for field goals this season.
- Regarding last season's backup, Frost said that they felt comfortable with both Lockie and Jake Rodrigues, who has transferred to San Diego State, but if they would've had to name a backup, it would've been Lockie. But that the coaching really didn't want to "finalize the outcome of that competition until a point in time when we [needed] to."
- On whether the flip side of having such a great QB like Mariota is the fact that you do get attrition with other guys: "Quarterbacks are a unique breed. … They're the leaders. They're used to being the guy. It's tough for guys to come in and not play. We've had a great one, which is a good problem to have. But a lot of the guys behind him hadn't had the chance to play as much as they'd like."
- Fun note: Frost lauded Mariota for being good at many different things, but apparently golf is not one of those things.
- On the Thomas Tyner vs. Byron Marshall debate -- Frost said there's a lot of confidence in both players. He said that it took Tyner a while to really get up to speed, but that he's there now and that Frost likes the competition between these two. Seems like even if there is a lead back and a No. 2 back, there really might not be a ton of separation in reps or carries.
- Both have really good hands, but Frost said both "need to work on running routes a little bit and making sure they know more than one spot."
- The first non-Tyner-Marshall player that Frost brought up was incoming freshman Tony James. James is the No. 14 RB in the 2014 class and chose the Ducks over offers from Auburn, Florida State and Ohio State.
- On how the Bralon Addison injury affects the running backs: "We'd be silly if we just leave one running back on the field and most of these guys off the field. I can see us playing with more than one, using them in some other roles.
- Frost cited the 2011 season when the Ducks used LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner together a lot, saying that might be something we see this season. That season James rushed for 1,805 yards, Thomas rushed for 595 and Barner rushed for 939. I don't think Frost is saying that 2014 will necessarily be another 4,000-rushing yard season, but, this idea of multiple-back situations keeps coming up a lot.
- Apparently, Chip Kelly used to use, what he called, the "taser" position -- a guy that can play tailback, flanker and slot. This is something they're looking at using more of next season with Tyner or Marshall, it sounds like. Even if Addison weren't injured, this would've been something they would've considered doing more of this year.
- In closing, Frost put it best: "We want our best five on the field for the situation all times. There have been times that's four running backs. There have been times that's two tight ends. And there's times that's four receivers. So, we'll just have to get through camp, figure out who our best guys are and go from there."
Four of the nation's top 12 and six of the top 26 were headed to -- or staying on -- the West Coast. There was a good mix of dual-threat guys and pocket passers -- enough to instill high expectations moving forward. For comparison, the SEC and Big 12 both signed one player from the top 15.
Just over two years later, it's clear the class will never live up to those expectations.
Of the 14 players listed as quarterbacks by ESPN that signed with Pac-12 schools that year, only four are currently on the roster at the school they signed with, listed at quarterback and in good standing with the program. With Monday's news that Oregon's Jake Rodrigues would transfer, the transfer count is up to six. The other four situations are composed of a suspension, a position change, a dismissal and an LDS Church mission.
Here is a look at the Pac-12's quarterbacks from the Class of 2012 and an update on how their careers have progressed:
Ranking: No. 2
Status: Transferred (Butte College)
Comment: Kline redshirted in coach Jeff Tedford's final season behind starter Zach Maynard then lost the competition to replace him to true freshman Jared Goff last year. He appeared in seven of 12 games but made the decision to transfer following the season. Originally it was reported that Kline would attend Oregon State, but instead he announced last month he would attend Butte College -- the same school Aaron Rodgers attended before he went to Cal.
Ranking: No. 5
Status: Transferred (Kansas)
Comment: After landing at UCLA the year after Brett Hundley, Millweard left Westwood after one redshirt season to head to Kansas. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules but does not appear to be in line for playing time with the Jayhawks. Sophomore Montell Cozart was named the starter following spring practice.
Ranking: No. 10
Comment: The heir apparent to Keith Price during the 2013 season, it appeared Miles had the potential to become the prize of this class. That still might be the case, but his career remains in a state of flux due to an indefinite suspension following his connection to a post-Super Bowl assault. Coach Chris Petersen told 710 ESPN Seattle a decision won't be made public on Miles' future until August.
Ranking: No. 12
Comment: Rodrigues' decision on Monday seemingly came out of nowhere after a spring in which multiple reports cast him as a strong candidate to replace Marcus Mariota following next year. But after meeting with coach Mark Helfrich on Monday, as reported by Comcast SportsNet Northwest, he made the decision to move on. It's a safe bet Helfrich didn't say, "Jake, we see you as Marcus' primary backup and expect you to be the starter in 2015," in that meeting. Too early to say where he'll end up.
Ranking: No. 17
Status: Potential starter
Comment: With Miles' status uncertain, Lindquist moved to the top of the depth chart by default during spring practice. Lindquist and Troy Williams competed as the only two quarterbacks through the spring. He hasn't attempted a pass for the Huskies, but had two carries for 10 yards in 2013.
Ranking: No. 26
Status: Dismissed from team
Comment: Allen served as B.J. Denker's primary backup in 2013, but he was dimissed from the team before the Wildcats played in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl for violating team policies. He appeared in five games but attempted just one pass. It's unclear where his career will go from here.
Ranking: No. 39
Comment: The unquestioned success story (so far) from this class, Wilson is the only starter among the group. He started seven games as a true freshman and the Utes' first nines games in 2013 before a scary head injury cost him the rest of the season. The injury was serious enough that his career was in jeopardy, but it was announced in February that he would return. Wilson has thrown for 3,138 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Ranking: No. 43
Status: LDS mission
Comment: Hansen spent the 2012 season with the Utes, but he put his college football career on hold to depart on his LDS Church mission. He is expected to return to the team for the 2015 season.
Ranking: No. 44
Status: Converted to tight end
Comment: After redshirting in 2012, he converted to tight end and played in nine games last season -- mostly on special teams -- without recording a catch.
Ranking: No. 51
Status: Transferred to play basketball (Cuyamaca JC)
Comment: Dillon left the school in July 2013 to pursue college basketball. He initially announced on Twitter he would play basketball at San Diego in the WCC, but that fell through and he landed at Cuyamaca Junior College in San Diego. In 27 games in the 2013-14 season, he averaged 11.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Ranking: No. 78
Status: Transferred (Western Pennsylvania)
Comment: Although listed as a quarterback during the recruiting process by ESPN, Capers played defensive back for the Wildcats. He appeared in 11 games as a true freshman, but injuries limited him in 2013 before he left the program in November.
Ranking: No. 105
Status: No. 2 on depth chart
Comment: With Rodrigues' transfer, Lockie is in position to serve as Mariota's backup in 2014 -- which should allow for plenty of playing time -- and give him a leg up on becoming the starter in 2015. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 57 yards last year without a touchdown and one interception. At Monte Vista High in Danville, Calif., Lockie was crosstown rivals with Kline (San Ramon Valley High).
Ranking: No. 111
School: Washington State
Status: Transferred (Mesa CC)
Comment: The writing was on the wall for Apodaca even though he was the Cougars' No. 2 quarterback in 2013. He didn't project to ever become the starter in Pullman and decided to transfer in February.
Ranking: No. 144
School: Oregon State
Status: Competing for backup job
Comment: VanderVeen redshirted in 2012, and sat at No. 3 on the depth chart in 2013 without throwing a pass. He's currently competing for the backup job with Kyle Kempt and Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio.
Note: Arizona State, Stanford and USC did not sign quarterbacks that year.
- Former Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey downplays character concerns.
- How will former Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton fit with the Bears?
- Golden Blogs discusses what was encouraging and discouraging about spring practice.
- Colorado held a groundbreaking for its $143 million athletics facility expansion on Monday.
- Former Oregon QB Jake Rodrigues discusses his reasons for transferring.
- Oregon State coach Mike Riley discusses Brandin Cooks in a Q&A.
- Stanford coach David Shaw discusses a wide range of topics in this Q&A.
- Filling in the gaps left by UCLA's drafted players.
- Did the Jets try to move up for former USC receiver Marqise Lee?
- Scouting former Utah OLB Trevor Reilly as a fit with the Jets.
- Fantasy football prep: Where to take Bishop Sankey.
- Head over to CougCenter to play Washington State draft trivia.
2. The two best quarterbacks in college football, Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon, had best stay healthy. Winston’s backup, Jacob Coker, will play at Alabama. Mariota’s backup, Jake Rodrigues, announced Monday that he will transfer. Mariota got hurt last season, and Winston’s off-field problems are well-documented. And yet the one-play-away mantra of coaches that applies to every other position doesn’t apply at quarterback. What’s different? The demands of the position or the egos of the guys playing it?
3. Now that the ACC athletic directors have voted in favor of keeping the status quo of eight conference games, the circle is complete. The ACC and SEC point to each other and say, but we’re playing them! Yes, four schools are. And Notre Dame will be on five ACC schedules a year. Nine ACC games is doable. Asking fans to pay retail prices for bad opponents -– and with four non-ACC games, there are plenty –- is not right.
Despite the fact quarterback Jake Rodrigues came out of Oregon’s spring practices looking like the backup and heir apparent to Marcus Mariota, the redshirt sophomore has decided to transfer. That leaves Jeff Lockie, the other redshirt sophomore quarterback on the roster, as the backup by default.
Since Helfrich brought in two quarterbacks in the 2012 class, Lockie has been in a position where he has been fighting a classmate for the backup role behind Mariota. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares now that he is the guy behind the guy. If he doesn’t step up, Helfrich certainly has other options -- two redshirt freshmen, Taylor Alie and Damion Hobbs, as well as 2014 signee Morgan Mahalak.
With Mariota at the helm for another season, the Ducks should be fine, but the really interesting part of this seems to be the timing of Rodrigues’ decision. Rodrigues told CSNNW that his decision was completely based on football.
However, had Rodrigues decided after last season that Oregon football wasn’t working for him, he could’ve transferred during the winter. Though he would’ve still been ineligible to play in 2014, he could’ve been at a school for spring practice. This would’ve given him a chance to become acquainted with a new system, coaching staff and teammates. But since he didn’t make the decision until after the spring -- a spring in which he appeared by most accounts to be the go-to backup -- he now puts himself a bit behind the 8-ball in terms of transfer options.
So it appears as though Oregon quarterbacks -- those still on the roster, and those looking for another roster -- will continue to be an interesting issue this summer.
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To the notes!
Nick from Washington, D.C., writes: Okay So Marcus Mariota is obviously the man in college football. Heisman front-runner, keys to the Oregon offensive castle, clearly an A-list athlete. As an Oregon fan, I have loved the progression from Harrington, Clemens, Masoli, Thomas, and now Mariota. However, as awesome as watching Oregon's continuous progression has been ... I am terrified of the future. With no heralded spread option QBs committing to Oregon, and no real news of Oregon hunting them down, have we become Running Back U of the Pac-12 and no longer the destination of choice for hardcore quasi-under-the-radar quarterbacks? Is Jake Rodrigues really the next in line? If so, should we be worried?
Ted Miller: You are terrified of the future? You should be. Two words: Giant Asteroids.
Run … run! Save yourselves!
Well, Nick -- mind if I call you Chicken Little? -- I would say that, no, you shouldn't be worried.
I recall the panic of 2008: Nate Costa injured! Justin Roper … injured! Who the heck is Jeremiah Masoli?
And then there was the panic of 2010: Masoli gets the boot? Who the heck is Darron Thomas?
And, of course, few saw Mariota coming when he beat out Bryan Bennett, who some fans had been clamoring to replace Thomas.
It does appear that Jake Rodrigues is the favorite to be Mariota's backup this year, and that projects him as the starter in 2015 as a junior. He was a pretty touted recruit, by the way.
As for present recruiting worries, I would only point to what everyone was saying in February 2011: "Who the heck is Marcus Mariota, a two-star recruit and the nation's 123rd best QB?"
Now, stop reading and get out of the way of that GIANT ASTEROID!
John from Dublin, Calif., writes: Regarding scheduling: Ted, you do know the fix is simple, don't you? Just pass a rule that to be included in the playoffs (or any major bowl) you cannot play an FCS team that season, and one-third or more of your nonconference games must be played in the opponents home stadium. Schedules will equalize overnight, or at least within a year or two.
Ted Miller: I hear you. I think the folks promoting the laissez-faire attitude that each conference has a right to schedule as it sees fit are either compromised or naive.
I actually don't care if teams play an FCS team any given year. What I do think is reasonable is to demand teams aspire toward comparable schedules across the Big Five conferences: nine conference games plus an A, B, C plan in nonconference scheduling.
That means play the same number of conference games as everyone else, one other team from a Big Five conference and one other team with a discernible pulse. Then, fine, write yourself in a win over a patsy. A lot of FCS teams need those payout games to survive.
You'd think the home-road differences would even out with Big Five conference teams signing home-and-home series, but that probably isn't likely because teams with 100,000-seat stadiums can offer an alluring payout to teams with smaller stadiums for a single-game series. I suspect we're going to see going forward SEC teams offering big checks to teams like Virginia, Purdue and Kansas to come visit, thereby satisfying the demands -- if not the spirit -- of a plan to upgrade nonconference scheduling.
The present system -- schedule however you want! -- is both illogical and unfair, and the SEC is 100 percent gaming the system for one reason: because it believes it can.
It will be interesting to see how things stack up with the selection committee. If the SEC gets penalized -- as it should -- for its clear effort to make its path to the College Football Playoff easier, then you can expect a quick adjustment.
Tim from Salt Lake City writes: I like the idea of having the Pac-12 championship game in Levi's Stadium but it's not really a neutral site game is it? It's pretty much in Stanford's backyard (yeah, sure, Cal's too, but I don't see them as much of a threat to come out of the North). Is this going to be a permanent thing or is the league looking to rotate this around the region through a bid process?
Ted Miller: My understanding is that the Pac-12 championship game would be based in Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara -- it's notable the Pac-12 offices are in the Bay Area -- but nothing is ever set in stone with the conference, considering it's exploring a move from the home-hosted model after just three years.
There are pluses and minuses for keeping a neutral site game in one place. On the plus side, it could establish a new tradition (see the SEC title game in Atlanta) and thereby become logistically easier to operate. One the negative side, it's not a neutral site. Yet Atlanta isn't truly a neutral site, either (Georgia).
My guess is the Pac-12 wouldn't become too fixated on playing the game long term in one stadium if, say, Los Angeles or Phoenix decided to ante up a pile of cash to host the game.
As in most things in college football, this is about revenue -- both present and future. The Pac-12 will follow the money.
Matt from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Teddy ball game. Quick! WSU is killing it right now in recruiting, just got another four-star recruit. This is uncharted territory for the Cougs. I know its early. so give them a little shine before anyone decommits!!!
Ted Miller: Mike Leach and the Cougs are surging, no doubt, with two of five commitments ranked in the ESPN 300. That's a function of folks buying into the future under Leach, as well as shiny new facilities on campus.
The challenge, of course, is getting the letters of intent on signing day. Some of you Cougs might recall that a guy name Bishop Sankey was once a longtime commitment to Washington State.
And, yes, I feel bad for even mentioning that.
Scott from Mound, Minn, writes: You know Ted just when I think you turned a corner you say something ignorant like "any clear-thinking person sees the SEC as the best conference." Maybe it is more of any clear-thinking person realizes that there is no way to really see what conference is the "best." But you work for ESecPN and the SEC is the cash cow so I get why you talking heads would say that. As you so often say Ted, if you repeat a line over and over and shout down other opinions eventually it becomes accepted as truth. Thanks again Ted for demonstrating how biased ESecPN is in their coverage and news reporting. Go back to the South where you belong.
Ted Miller: This is for the Pac-12 blog's SEC friends. See: Pac-12 fans don't like me either.
Scott, I'm not going to even mention the SEC winning seven of the past eight national titles. Or recruiting rankings.
I will only note that the SEC on Thursday led all conferences with 11 first-round picks in the NFL draft, more than twice as many as any other conference.
Of course, that is somewhat disappointing because the SEC had 12 first-round picks last year, when it ended up with 63 draft picks, more than double that of any other conference.
I know the SEC has 14 teams, but the SEC East had more draft picks in 2013 -- 32 -- than any other conference.
Would you describe the NFL business model as being biased toward the SEC?
While the Pac-12 blog often speaks up for Pac-12 causes, it also believes in credibility. This is not a PR instrument. We are not going to be disingenuous or be free and easy with "facts" in order to support a cause.
The Pac-12 blog is that way because it wants folks to know that when it takes a position, it does so because it actually believes said position to be true.
So, Scott, it is simply credible to assert that clear-thinking people out there believe the SEC, in general, is the best college football conference.
Chris from Seattle writes: Ted, as a member of the Husky Faithful, I'm a devout reader of the blog. In my day job, I spend my time helping others visualize and understand their data. ESPN recently released the college athletic revenue/expense data, and I found it hard to make sense of. Given the nature of the debate around money in college athletics, I think it's more important than ever to make sure people really understand the data. In an attempt to fix that, I've created an interactive visualization that allows you to pick your conference and teams and see where the money comes from and where it goes. I also added in Director's Cup performance data, so people can see what the outcome of all this money is.
Ted Miller: That is pretty cool. I'm sure many readers will be fascinated.
They are the default answer that’s found whenever the starting quarterback struggles or misses an open receiver or an “obvious” read. The fans will say that the backup would’ve made that pass or play if he were in the game. But at the same time, especially when he’s behind a player such as Marcus Mariota, the chances that the backup will ever get into the game when it is in doubt are few and far between and likely will only happen upon an injury, which no one wants to see. In Oregon's case last season, that wasn't even enough to get the backups in.
“The backup quarterback is always the kind of hero who never has to prove himself,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
Nearly three quarters of the way through the spring season, there’s still no clear separation between the two signal-callers.
“I think ideally that plays itself out; there’s separation,” Helfrich said. “But sometimes it doesn’t happen. And you can’t fake that. That’s not something you want to try to create or have it happen in an artificial way ... That’s not the end of the world, either.”
This spring’s no-clear-backup situation isn’t new for Oregon -- last season was the same for Lockie and Rodrigues. Both saw the field in 2013, combining for 124 yards on 11 of 19 passing, two interceptions and one touchdown (thrown by Rodrigues).
But none of those statistics came in the pivotal game of 2013, when the Ducks lost to Stanford 26-20 with Mariota, and his sprained MCL, running the offense. Helfrich said on Friday that if that were to occur again, he’d be confident putting either Lockie or Rodrigues in the game. Helfrich said that people misunderstood that situation last season, as it wasn't a case of him not having confidence in either backup.
“Both of those guys want to be that [backup] guy, but there was never enough separation to have that happen last year,” Helfrich said. “I think, again, in some ways it’s a good thing because they were both kind of banged up at different times last year. ... At the same time, we didn’t just throw someone down to the scout team and keep someone up and force the issue.”
With Lockie and Rodrigues occupying the No. 2 spot behind Mariota, the No. 3 or No. 4 spots (or No. 4 and No. 5 spots) are filled by the other two QBs on the Ducks roster, redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and Damion Hobbs. Four-star signal caller Morgan Mahalak signed with the Ducks in February but won’t enroll until this fall.
Helfrich said that the current quarterbacks “have a ton of reps on him, but you recruit guys for a reason.” So, there’s no reason to rule Mahalak out of any kind of position race, though it seems far more likely for his battle to come against Alie and Hobbs on the scout team.
An abundance of options is one "problem" that coaches want to have. At some point, Helfrich might need to make the decision of which player will be the definitive No. 2 behind Mariota. In the perfect world, it’ll be because the Ducks have a big lead and not a Mariota injury. But even then, Helfrich will have to make that decision and give one of his unproven heroes the chance to finally prove himself.
Stat: Third-down passing conversions
Backing that up: The Ducks were quite fortunate at quarterback last season. Marcus Mariota had an incredible season. He threw for 3,665 yards and 31 touchdowns with only four interceptions. And when his backups stepped in, they played well too. Jeff Lockie appeared in nine games and completed 8 of 13 passes for 57 yards. Jake Rodrigues played in seven games, completing 3 of 6 passes and threw for one touchdown.
Their combined numbers put them near the top of the nation in almost every single important quarterback statistic. The Ducks completed 60.5 percent of their passes of 10-plus yards (No. 9 nationally), 68 percent of their completions gained a first down or touchdown (No. 7 nationally) and one in every 13 passes scored a touchdown (No. 7 nationally).
But, there was one area in which the Oregon quarterbacks struggled mightily -- third-down passing conversions. In this category the Ducks completed just 32.4 of their passes, moving them from one of the nation’s best group to No. 77 nationally.
Of the 12 FBS teams the Ducks played, their defenses gave up completions on 34.8 of opposing teams’ third-down passing conversions. The difference of 2.4 percent might not seem like a big deal and in most cases it wouldn’t be. It’s just so strange in Oregon’s case because in so many of the other statistical categories the Duck offense destroyed their opponents.
Passing yards per game:
Oregon’s offense: 291.5 yards
12 FBS opponents’ defenses: 248.7 yards
Yards per completion:
Oregon’s offense: 14.8 yards
12 FBS opponents’ defenses: 12.1 yards
Touchdowns per passing attempt:
Oregon’s offense: 7.9 percent
12 FBS opponents’ defenses: 4.6 percent
Percent of completions that went for 10-plus yards:
Oregon’s offense: 60.5 percent
12 FBS opponents’ defenses: 46.5 percent
Percent of completions that gained a first down or touchdown:
Oregon’s offense: 68 percent
12 FBS opponents’ defenses: 55.3 percent
Percentage of completions on third-down passes:
Oregon’s offense: 32.4 percent
12 FBS opponents’ defenses: 34.8 percent
So when looking at the Oregon offense next season and the strides it must take, third-down passing conversions certainly needs to be a part of the Ducks’ game that needs to move along.
In every category the Ducks are a top-10 team and when Mariota is discussed, his peers are the Jameis Winstons of the world. But in this category that was far from the case as Winston (49), Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (52.2 percent), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (49 percent) and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan (44.6 percent) were far superior to Mariota.
Other stats that must improve:
Ergo, we break down where teams stand with each position group, starting with quarterbacks.
Arizona: The Wildcats probably have the most wide-open QB competition, with four guys having a legitimate chance to replace the departed B.J. Denker. Three are transfers from big-time programs: senior Jesse Scroggins (USC), sophomore Connor Brewer (Texas) and junior Jerrard Randall (LSU). The fourth, redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, was one of the biggest stars in the 2013 recruiting class. Don't expect much to be settled by the end of spring, though coach Rich Rodriguez might at least allude to some sort of pecking order. Or a top three.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are strong at QB with senior Taylor Kelly, a third-year starter who has put up big numbers the past two seasons, and junior Mike Bercovici, a big-armed backup -- perhaps, in fact, the best backup in the Pac-12. That's why Michael Eubank opted to transfer to Samford in Birmingham, Ala. It will be interesting to see which of the youngsters on the roster emerge as a No.3, a guy who might challenge Bercovici in 2015.
California: It seems unlikely that sophomore Jared Goff will be unseated, particularly after Zach Kline opted to transfer. Goff was uneven last season -- his entire team was -- but flashed plenty of potential. He and a talented crew of receivers should get better this spring. The big question might be whether anyone challenges senior Austin Hinder for the backup job.
Colorado: Sophomore Sefo Liufau is solid as the returning starter. He took some lumps last season but also flashed plenty of promise -- as both a player and leader. After him, there's junior college transfer Jordan Gehrke, a redshirt sophomore, the likely backup. Depth is a problem, at least this spring. As the Boulder Daily Camera noted, "Five quarterbacks have left the CU program either to transfer to other schools or give up the sport entirely since the start of spring football last year. A sixth completed his eligibility last season." That's why the Buffs added walk-on Trent Sessions to the roster. He worked with the equipment staff last year.
Oregon: The Ducks probably feel pretty good about their third-year starter, junior Marcus Mariota, a leading 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate who would have been a first-round pick if he'd entered the 2014 NFL draft. The competition for the backup spot, however, will be interesting because Mariota is almost certain to enter the NFL draft after the season. Sophomores Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues are 2A and 2B, with Lockie first off the bench as the backup in 2013, but Rodrigues the more physically talented player as a runner and passer.
Oregon State: Like their friends to the south, Oregon State is fortunate its 2013 starter, Sean Mannion, decided to return instead of entering the NFL draft. Mannion's chief focus will be finding some receivers to replace the production of the departed Brandin Cooks. The battle for the backup job also will be interesting between sophomore Brent VanderVeen and redshirt freshman Kyle Kempt. Of course, their battle might not resolve things much for 2015, with incoming Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio joining the fray after sitting out a season.
Stanford: It seems unlikely that two-year starter Kevin Hogan will be challenged for the starting job this spring, even though he had some ups and downs in 2013, but there is no lack of talent battling for the backup job. Junior Evan Crower was the backup in 2013, but redshirt freshman Ryan Burns is a big-time talent. As is incoming freshman Keller Chryst, who officially will arrive in the fall but, as a Palo Alto resident, figures to hang around spring practices.
UCLA: Heading into his third season running the offense, Brett Hundley gives the Bruins one of the best starting quarterbacks in the nation. He's a proven dual threat and leader who will be refining his game this spring and building chemistry with his receivers. After him, however, things are a bit iffy, in large part because of the 2013 preseason transfer of T.J. Millweard to Kansas. The chief competitors for the backup job are Jerry Neuheisel, the 2013 backup, and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard, with Woulard being the guy with the most future upside. Of course, there is another QB out there some UCLA fans might be thinking about.
USC: The returning starter facing the most formidable challenge to his starting job this spring is probably Cody Kessler, even though Kessler played well in the second half of the 2013 season. With the transfer of Max Wittek, touted redshirt freshman Max Browne, at the very least, sets up to be a high-quality backup next season. But plenty of folks think Browne has a legitimate shot to unseat Kessler, particularly with new coach Steve Sarkisian taking over.
Utah: There's still no final word on the long-term health issue that might end QB Travis Wilson's career, and anything decisive might not come for weeks. If Wilson gets cleared, the good bet is on him returning to the starting job. If not, a spring competition will begin between Adam Schulz, who stepped in when Wilson went down, and redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox. In the fall, dual-threat QB Donovan Isom arrives.
Washington: Keith Price, a three-year starter, is gone, but the Huskies seemed fairly set at QB with sophomore backup Cyler Miles appearing plenty capable of stepping into the cockpit this spring. In limited action last season, Miles completed 61 percent of his throws for 418 yards with four TDs and two picks, and he also showed good mobility, rushing for 200 yards. The pecking order at least seemed set, that is, until Miles got into some off-field trouble that threatens his status for spring practice and perhaps beyond. If Miles is still suspended, that means opportunity comes knocking for sophomore Jeff Lindquist or redshirt freshman Troy Williams to make an impression.
Washington State: Connor Halliday will be a senior, three-year starter and the Cougars' top leader in the third season running Mike Leach's "Air Raid" offense. He figures to put up huge numbers this fall with a strong crew of receivers. His 2013 backup, sophomore Austin Apodaca, opted to transfer, perhaps believing that redshirt freshman Tyler Bruggman had the inside track to the starting job in 2015. Depth is a bit of a question, with the No. 3 this fall likely being true freshman Peyton Bender.
Julie C. (Chandler, Ariz.): With Dion Jordan going so high in the NFL draft (No. 3 to Miami Dolphins), do you feel like that might have some sort of effect on the Ducks' recruiting efforts in the Class of 2014? It seems like the publicity it provides could be the kind of thing that coaches can rely on as an additional recruiting pitch.
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.
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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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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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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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With a flurry of activity surrounding the program, it is now time to open up the mailbag and answer your questions.
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