It isn’t tough to decide who’s starting for the majority of the positions this season, but starting quarterback will continue to be a discussion piece for the remainder of fall camp. Bryan Bennett is the only one that’s seen a large amount of actual game play last season when former quarterback Darron Thomas went down with a knee injury. Will that experience give him the edge in camp and land him the starting gig?
We all loved Marcus Mariota’s amazing performance in the spring game and noted Bennett’s two interceptions and struggled to keep his team on the field. But that “Fighting Ducks” squad was not the complete team that Bennett will be under snap for, and don’t forget that he’s also tremendous on his feet – he had 200 yards rushing along with his 369 yards and six touchdowns in the air last season in eight games.
Colorado wasn’t good last season, but Bennett showed that he could dominate a game. In his first start at quarterback, he didn’t put his team in any bad positions. He had over 200 yards combined in the air and on the ground, finishing with a 153.5 quarterback rating.
Largely, the game was won by a strong defense holding Colorado to just 231 yards of offense, and Oregon’s domination on the ground; the Ducks ran for 273 more yards than the Buffaloes. But Bennett completing 54.3 percent of his passes as a backup with zero interceptions is fantastic. His efficiency rating clocks in at 164.8.
This isn’t your classic case of a young gun trying to out-duel a veteran. Bennett is still just a sophomore, and both have nearly the same physical attributes – Mariota is one inch taller (6-foot-4) and Bennett has three more pounds (199). It’s all going to be about who has better chemistry with the team and who can run the spread offense better.
Bennett’s natural passing ability is better, and Mariota may have just had a real hot day during the spring contest. But it’s hard to give a real judgement to who should get the nod with closed practices and just hearing what the coaches have to say.
That’s exactly how coach Chip Kelly wants it. And if he has it his way, we won’t know who’s under center until the Ducks’ first possession against Arkansas State on September 1st.