The Waiting Game

Taking snaps against UCLA, 2013.

 

Who is the first player that comes to mind when you think of the Oregon Ducks football team? Marcus Mariota? Ifo Ekpre-Olomu? What about the players who dedicate just as much of their time and work ethic, and don’t see much (if any) playing time? It’s extremely challenging to earn a spot as a starter on any Division I football squad, let alone on a team as good as the Ducks. Among all the largely unsung Oregon non-starters, you could say that talented, dedicated backup quarterback Jeff Lockie arguably has the most challenging position on the team. Can you fathom the pressure he must be under, game in and game out, or the feeling in his stomach when he sees the starter go down?

Calling in the plays. Lockie and Sen. backup Dustin Haines #14

Craig Strobeck

Calling in the plays. Lockie and senior backup Dustin Haines, No. 14.

I think we sometimes underestimate the importance of a good backup quarterback. With the eyes of the nation on the top players, backups are sidelined, literally. It’s often only when a starting QB goes down that fans discover his understudy’s name (Anyone know who Tom Brady’s backup is? How about Peyton Manning?). Yet these are often highly skilled players, largely relegated to calling in plays from the sideline and riding the bench.

Lockie put his name on the board in the 2013 Spring game.

Kevin Cline

Lockie put his name on the board in the 2013 Spring game.

For backup quarterbacks, waiting is the game. For some, it becomes too much. This is what happened with 2011-2012 backup Ducks quarterback Bryan Bennett, who left Eugene to assume the starting quarterback position at Southeastern Louisiana University, after two seasons with Oregon.

Why would anyone leave a powerhouse, highly-ranked football program like Oregon’s for some FCS team? The answer is simple: playing time. For some, the chance to get on the field as a starter, even if with a program that doesn’t register on the radar of most collegiate football watchers, is more attractive than playing second string on a national title contender. Luckily for the Ducks, Jeff Lockie is committed to this challenging task.

Out of the pocket. Lockie runs past Nicholls State, 2013.

Gary Breedlove

Out of the pocket. Lockie runs past Nicholls State, 2013.

As far as Lockie is concerned, it’s hard to leave when you’re learning from an outstanding offensive coordinator like Scott Frost, and practicing with Heisman candidate Mariota. Lockie explains his experience working with the Flyin’ Hawaiian, ”It’s awesome. It’s a good experience having Marcus. He is an easy model of how it is supposed to look. So I think it is super beneficial.”

Lockie’s main competitors, Jake Rodrigues and Damion Hobbs have transferred, leaving walk-on Taylor Adie, and incoming freshman Morgan Mahalak to content with Jeff for the go-to backup role. Lockie seems undaunted: “I’m just trying to do my best to get the ball to other players. Let them catch the ball and do what they do best. That’s definitely my main focus.”

Mariota and Lockie during 2014 Spring game.

Kevin Cline

Mariota and Lockie during 2014 Spring game.

Last season, as a fan, I found myself nervous when the Ducks weren’t up by 30 at half. Know what I mean? As soon as Lockie or Rodrigues entered into the game, it felt like a win was assured. Lockie approaches each game he enters with the mentality of a calm, collected baseball closer: “Just do my job. Make sure everyone is on the same page, that we are all moving, and just score touchdowns on every drive. That is the goal now and will continue to be the goal.”

Before arriving at Oregon, Lockie was a star quarterback at Monte Vista High School, in Alamo, Calif. The transition from playing quarterback in high school, to the Ducks’ fast-paced, complex offense would be a tough assignment for anyone, both mentally and physically. Lockie’s keenly aware of the challenge: “The speed and pace of play. The guys are so much more talented than high school and move a lot faster. Then put in the fact that our offense is so much faster – you have to think quickly.”

Taking snaps against UCLA, 2013.

Craig Strobeck

Taking snaps against UCLA, 2013.

The 6’2″, 200 lb. Redshirt sophomore has dreamed of starting for the Ducks since first walking into Autzen Stadium. With rumors of Mariota leading the candidates for the Heisman trophy this upcoming season and heading into the NFL draft in 2015, fans are already beginning to wonder who will be the next great starter for Oregon. Jeff Lockie hopes his name will be called.

 Feature photo by Craig Strobeck

 

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Ashley Young

Ashley Young

Ashley Young is current senior at the University of Oregon and grew up an avid Seattle Seahawks fan, despite all the ups and downs of past seasons. She has made her way to the University of Oregon and now loves watching the Ducks dominate in all sports. In her spare time, she has discovered a passion through the sport of Ultimate Frisbee and is a co-captain for the University of Oregon Women's Ultimate team, last year's national champions. Twitter: @AshleyHopeYoung

  • Rusty

    Luckily when Lockie goes in the pace pace of the game has drawn to a crawl … They won’t let him pass so the game becomes one dimentional .
    Would love to see more foot on the pedal so he’s ready to jump and run the game in the event he’s needed earlier on.

  • Bicoastal Duck

    No Duck fan underestimates the significance of a good backup QB. Multiple National Title hopes have been dashed by an injured/compromised Oregon QB.

    • hokieduck

      Word.

      I also cannot help but think how last season may have panned out had Bryan Bennett not left for greener pastures. I am willing to bet that he thought about it a few times as well after Marcus was injured.