The decision, Chip Kelly indicated on Saturday, wasn’t made because of qualities either quarterback “had or didn’t have,” but because of a noticeable separation made between the two.
“Through the body of work we felt that Marcus gave us the best shot in our opening game against Arkansas State,” Kelly said.
That separation according to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, was gradual, as the duel went back and forth throughout spring and fall camp before Mariota made the stronger claim for the job. Helfrich recognized decision-making, ball security and regularity of scoring drives as three of the driving factors, but stressed that in none of these areas were the gaps gaping.
“We’re not talking about an A grade and a C grade, we’re talking about percentage points,” he said.
The news was delivered to each player Friday in individual meetings with Helfrich and Kelly. The coaches broke down each of their fall camp performances before announcing the decision.
Mariota was as reserved as ever, despite the news, reiterating that his focus was on the defending Sun-Belt champion Red Hawks not on the position battle he he’d won. He called the news exciting and that his job would be to “distribute the ball (to his playmakers) and they’ll go out and make plays.”
For Bennett the news disappointing and “a little bit of a surprise”.
“I knew it could go either way,” Bennett said. “It’s one of those things that you hope wouldn’t happen. But it happened and it doesn’t mean I’m not going to stop working, stop grinding. I’m not going to stop getting after it. My dreams aren’t over. It’s just another hump in the road.”
That road, most Oregon fans hope keeps the speedy quarterback in Eugene, however Bennett was reluctant to discuss the possibility of transferring.
“It’s not anything that I want to do. I don’t want to leave this school. I love it here. I love my teammates. I love playing for the Ducks.
“In the future you never know what’s going to happen, I still have to think about what’s going to be best for myself. As for right now, I want to be here and I want to be on this team.”
It’s safe to say both Kelly and Helfrich share the desire for Bennett to remain a Duck despite the situation.
“I think Bryan Bennett would start for a lot of universities in the country and we’re very fortunate to have him on our team,” Kelly said.
“This isn’t a slam the door on Bryan Bennett, we’re very excited about his future,” Helfrich said.
Bennett hadn’t the closed door on himself either, saying that he still believes he can win the job back even telling Mariota “this thing ain’t over,” in a conversation that they’d hd previously. Bennett also said he thanked Mariota making him better, and that the competition improved each player.
“It’s made the whole team better,” Mariota agreed. “For Bryan and I, if he went out and made a good throw, I had to go out and make a good throw and vice-versa.”
ODDS and ENDS:
-Kelly said they looked great in first day of Arkansas State game prep, calling it a “credit to these guys, they came back and their focus was 100%.”
-Kelly said, “I haven’t seen one kid hanging their head.”
-On Rashaun Vaughn’s camp, “I felt like we had a lot of competition and we can only list two.”
-On Marcus running the ball more than Darron Thomas: “What our role for our quarterback is, is how the defenses decide to deploy themselves. We never go ‘the quarterback is going to keep it a certain number of times.’”
-On position battles: “I told them that if any kid is patting themselves on the back or you came in today putting your feet up because eight days before the first game you’ve got your name listed with the first string, it means absolutely nothing.”
-On disappointment over two-deeps: “If someone is disappointed, that’s their fault, they should take it as a challenge.”
-Some of the guys were “spurred” by not being on two-deep.
-On Vaughn: “it’s not written in sharpie or granite.”
-On Carson York’s absence from two-deep: “Those are the guys that right now give us the best chance to win.”