Oregon Football: Without Mariota, Who Gets the Nod at QB?

Jake Rodrigues

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.

The depth chart changes as Jake Rodrigues looks elsewhere for playing time.

Steve Francis

The depth chart changes as Jake Rodrigues looks elsewhere for playing time.

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.

Jeff Lockie

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.

Damion Hobbs

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

Morgan Mahalak 

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.

Jeff Lockie now has the most experience among the backup QB candidates -- by far -- and has thrown 13 career passes.

Craig Strobeck

Jeff Lockie now has the most experience among the backup QB candidates — by far — and has thrown 13 career passes.

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

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Josh White

Josh White

Josh White has been a dedicated Duck fan since the Bill Musgrave days. He has attended (and lost his voice at) virtually every home game and many away games since the late 1980's, including 96 of the current 97 game sellout streak at Autzen Stadium. A Eugene native, Josh works full time in Eugene area real estate, helping people buy and sell residential and commercial properties, and also volunteers with Habitat For Humanity, Kidsports and Food For Lane County. He welcomes your feedback.Twitter: @WhiteHouseJosh Facebook: EugenesBestRealtor

  • hooverli

    I’m hoping Lockie is designated the back up, get’s all the 2nd string reps, and get’s all the mop up duty. The more he get’s the better for the team. He may not be the most talented, but he has the most experience. I felt Lockie was a safer bet than Rodrigues. Rodrigues took too many chances with his big arm.