With the news coming a few days ago about the transfer of QB Jake Rodrigues, the margin for error for the 2014 Oregon football team just shrunk a little bit more. Faced with the daunting task of replacing talented receiver Bralon Addison and the host of graduated seniors, the Ducks already had their work cut out for them in reshuffling the roster. But if we have learned anything about Oregon football since around 2005, it is that there will be at least one game (or more) next season where the team will need a critical contribution from it’s second-string QB.
A green Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf took the reigns against Arizona in 2005, when starter Kellen Clemens was injured. Two seasons later, Oregon used five quarterbacks to try to replace the production from an injured Dixon.
A few years later, it was Darron Thomas leaning on Bryan Bennett and Nate Costa during stretches of critical games. Even in the Alamo Bowl last season, Jeff Lockie had to come into the game in a pinch with the Ducks in the red zone, while Mariota had to sit out in order to reattach his helmet.
Though the spring game is merely one of 15 allowable practice sessions, Jake Rodrigues displayed a different, more confident look than he had in years past. He seemed to be fully over the horrific leg injury he suffered in high school. And for this upcoming season, many were looking to the now-departed Rodrigues to be that experienced player at quarterback — one who is able to step in and keep some form of flow with the offense should the need arise.
So, let’s take an updated look at the remaining candidates vying to become the backup to Marcus Mariota.
6′-2, 200 lbs, RS So. 2011’s East Bay Athletic league MVP at Monte Vista high school (Ca.) threw for 3,278 yards and 31 touchdowns through the air, and ran another seven more in for scores. After a redshirt year in 2012, Lockie saw the field in nine games last year, going 8-13 for 57 yards with one interception and punched in an eight-yard run for the TD against Nicholls.
Spring Game Highlight: 41-yard pass to WR Austin Daich.
6′-2, 200 lbs, RS Fr. The dual threat QB from Cedar Hills, Texas, threw for more than 2,700 yards and ran for 800 more, scoring 39 total touchdowns and coming within inches of the 5A state championship. The former three-star recruit redshirted in 2013, and would seem to be securely in the race for the backup job.
Spring Game Highlight: 49-yard TD pass to WR Devon Allen
Taylor Alie 6′, 175 lbs, RS Fr. (Walk-on) Accumulated impressive stats in high school, and was named as the Oregon 6A first team QB, after throwing for more than 3,200 yards, leading his team to an undefeated senior season and state championship. The local Eugene and Sheldon High school quarterback took a redshirt season last season.
Spring GameHighlight: 21-yard TD pass to WR Darren Carrington
6’3, 190 lbs (Incoming Freshman) A Rivals.com 4-star recruit was recruited by a strong list of schools, and is listed as the 11th-rated quarterback nationally in the Class of ’14. The Marin Catholic high school product has been committed to the Ducks for more than a year (04/30/13) and has not wavered despite others being interested. While his talent and potential is unquestioned, it is tough to imagine any player walking in to a new situation and new playbook, and grasping enough in a few short months to have much impact on the field in games.
As you can see, the cupboard is not exactly bare, and there is time for the coaching staff to evaluate and develop the best option before the season kicks off. Mariota is a truly special talent and hopefully, he gets to start every game and rest during many fourth-quarter blowout victories. But with Oregon in the Pac-12 conference, how often does that actually happen?
Recent history suggests that for either a series, a half, or even full games, the Ducks will need an important contribution from their backup QB. With Rodrigues now out, who will be that player be this season? With the limited information available about Duck football practices, we may not find out until August 30th in Autzen Stadium, likely sometime during the 2nd half against South Dakota.
Top photo by Kevin Cline