Duck 2012 Preview: Quarterbacks

Oregon fans were shocked when last year's starting quarterback Darron Thomas opted to pursue the NFL. The loss was mitigated because Bryan Bennett showed he could win. Last spring, that shock was abated when Marcus Mariota broke off a long touchdown run in the spring game. Now the question is, who will be the new Duck signal caller, Mariota or Bennett?

(PHOTO) Oregon Ducks quarterback Bryan Bennett (2) breaks free for a long gain against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks beat the Sun Devils 41-27. Mandatory Credit: Jim Z. Rider-US PRESSWIRE.

Darron Thomas is gone and so is his 158.7 efficiency rating (211-for-339 yards, seven interceptions and 33 touchdowns) along with 206 yards of net rushing and three touchdowns but more importantly the leadership on the playing field. There was no question headed into the 2011 season that the Ducks were Thomas' team, even with players like LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas in the Oregon backfield to fuel the potent Duck rushing game.

With Thomas' departure the door was left wide open for a healthy competition between redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota. Bennett had seen playing time with appearances in eight games in 2011 including a start against Colorado. Bennett threw for a total of 369 yards on 25-of-46, six touchdowns and no interceptions to give him an impressive 164.3 quarterback efficiency rating for the season. Probably what stood out about Bennett last year was his effective running and in only 23 rushing attempts for the year, Bennett amassed 200 net yards.

Mariota was kept under wraps in 2011, and the only glimpse observers had of the 6-4, 200-pound product out of fabled Honolulu powerhouse St. Louis High School was during fall camp. While he showed a strong arm last fall, not many conclusions could be drawn on just how good Mariota could be. However, rumors kept leaking out of the closed practices that there was something extra special about Mariota and during Oregon's annual spring game in April, it was like a coming out party. Mariota scored twice on running plays of 14 and 82 yards. He also threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Daryle Hawkins.

Many felt that Bennett struggled in the spring game however reviewing the final statistics reveal that Bennett had a slight advantage in the total number of yards of passing (209 to 202) had one more completion (19 completions to 18 completions) but did have two balls intercepted, one for a pick-6 compared to Mariota's one interception.

Spring games are not exactly the same as a regular game as the game clock was ran as normal in the first half, but in the second half a running clock was used in order to complete the workout session in two hours.

Two incoming scholarship freshmen are already enrolled in school. Jake Rodrigues, actually enrolled last January and was able to be a part of the spring workouts in April, despite recovering from a broken leg. All indications are that Rodrigues will be fully able to go come August. Another quarterback from 2012 recruiting class, Jeff Lockie enrolled in school last month for summer term.

Walk on Justin Haines is the senior of the quarterback group and has appeared in a total of seven games during his career.

Now the big question remains asking who will fill the leadership role and that question should be answered in August.

Chip Kelly indicated throughout spring workouts that no decision on who will be the starting quarterback for the 2012 Ducks will be made until game week for the opener against Arkansas State on September 1st, at Autzen Stadium.

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