Oregon Ducks: Jake Rodrigues

Football will be back in Eugene soon enough, but it’s always good to reflect on 2013 and see what can be learned from last season and taken into next. Leading up to spring football, we’re going to break down some stats that need to improve next season.

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:

Spring position breakdown: QBs

February, 24, 2014
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Spring has sprung in the Pac-12, with Stanford starting spring practices this week and several schools following suit next week.

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.

Oregon recruiting mailbag 

April, 26, 2013
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With the NFL draft under way, the spring game on Saturday, a recent commitment and a couple of unofficial visitors, there is plenty to discuss around the Oregon football program. Some of the best questions regarding the most common subjects:

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.


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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.

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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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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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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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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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Kenjon Barner Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesKenjon Barner should get the majority of carries in the backfield this season.
The defending league champion Oregon Ducks kick off their quest for a Pac-12 four-peat when fall camp kicks off on Monday. The Ducks won the last two Pac-10 titles and the inaugural Pac-12 title; now they want to be the first back-to-back Pac-12 champions.

When fall camp kicks off there will be many familiar faces and also some notable players missing.

Gone are record-setting quarterback Darron Thomas, all-time leading rusher LaMichael James, team MVP David Paulson, the team's most improved player, Eddie Pleasant, and Rose Bowl Offensive MVP LaVasier Tuinei. How will they replace the departed stars? Who will step up? Is a fourth consecutive league title possible?

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Bryan BennettJim Z. Rider/US PresswireRedshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett is no stranger to performing in tough situations. In high school he was forced to take the helm and led his Encinco (Calif.) Crespi team to an 11-3 record.

Many outside of the Oregon program are expecting the Ducks to take a back seat to USC in 2012, due in large part to the loss of Darron Thomas at quarterback. Following Thomas out the door are his experience, leadership and toughness. The Ducks have a lot of talent waiting in the wings at the quarterback spot, but no one with significant experience.

While losing a record setting quarterback is always tough to recover from, the Ducks have had no problem doing so in the past. After Kellen Clemens came Dennis Dixon. After Dixon came Jeremiah Masoli. After Masoli, Thomas stepped in and took over the job. Now Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota battle to take over the Ducks’ offense.

The good news for the Ducks is that both candidates have a redshirt year under their belts that helped them adjust to the Oregon. More good news is that the skill level around them is at an all-time high. It should make for a fairly easy transition, especially with the favorable schedule in the first two months of the season.

(Read full post)

Most college programs make it a point to bring in at least one quarterback in every recruiting class due to the importance of the position. With Oregon's unique offense and the fact that the quarterbacks in Chip Kelly's system are in the open field more than most, the Ducks have always tried to follow this rule.

With a number of young signal callers on the roster, the Ducks are being even more selective than usual in issuing scholarship offers to quarterbacks in the class of 2013.

When Anthony Jennings (Marietta, Ga./Marietta) opted to commit to LSU in early June, the Ducks began looking at other quarterbacks that would be a good fit in Eugene. The next quarterback to earn an offer from the Oregon coaching staff was Johnny Stanton (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic).

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ArmsteadDamon SaylesArik Armstead, at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, brings the size and athleticism that will make it nearly impossible to keep him off the field.

By hauling in the No. 18 recruiting class in 2012 the Oregon Ducks added more depth, size and skill to an already young and talented roster. The class, heavy on defense and elite skill-position players, could see a number of newcomers make an immediate impact in Eugene.

Most likely to see the field

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