In a mere 10 days, the charcoal grills will ignite once again, the beers will be cracked and the masses of loyal Duck fans sporting the vibrant green and yellow will make their way across the Willamette River and through the woods to enter the shrine that is Autzen Stadium. Simply writing these words down stirs up the euphoria I have for the upcoming season.
Yet, as soon as that whistle blows, the Marcus Mariota era will have officially ended. One of the most decorated and successful college football players, Mariota leaves behind a legacy that other players can only dream about recreating. Although Mariota’s replacement isn’t named yet, there is one QB who Oregon can still rely on. His name is Scott Frost.
Andrew Greif of The Oregonian wrote a story about Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost’s unique first year as Nebraska’s quarterback and how he can translate that knowledge to help ease the transition for the new Ducks quarterback, whoever that may be. According to Greif’s article, it is apparent Coach Frost is even more of an asset as he has first hand experience handling the pressure of replacing a legendary quarterback.
The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers team was stacked and unstoppable. The team featured twenty-seven future NFL players, led by quarterback Tommie Frazier, who led the Cornhuskers to back to back national championships and three straight championship game MVPs (yes his team lost but he still won the award). Much like Lockie and Adams, Coach Frost was thrown into the spotlight to replace a campus legend.
After a brutal loss in his second start for Nebraska, the criticism and comparisons rained down on Frost like a Eugene rainstorm. Amidst all the scrutiny, Frost led Nebraska to a road win at #2 Washington later that season. He turned his doubters into believers, using the uncertainty around him as his motivation to prove everyone wrong.
These instances of adversity prove Coach Frost has the experience to aid Oregon’s incumbents while they push through the expectations following Mariota’s historic career. Blocking out the pain, both physically and mentally, is a key lesson that Frost will teach his new quarterbacks.
After the first errant pass or poorly called blitz pickup, there will be those fans quick to judge and question the future success of the Ducks. Yet Coach Frost, the 1996 Big-12 offensive newcomer of the year who led his team to an 11-2 season, will have no problem sticking up for his two extremely talented quarterbacks.
Coach Frost lacked the elusiveness that made Tommie Frazier a household name. Yet his work ethic and attention to detail made him a great college quarterback. Playing to one’s strengths is another lesson that Frost will provide to Jeff Lockie and Vernon Adams, as they battle it out to follow in the footsteps of Mariota.
Jeff Lockie has waited patiently for a chance to show off all he has learned. His precision and timing was evident in the spring game, going 9-9 for 223 yards and 3 scores. Staying confident while not trying to do too much will be essential for Lockie’s success. Coach Frost’s tutelage will promote humility in the spotlight as well as the tools to stay confident when the expectations of matching Mariota’s intangibles aren’t accomplished, which of course is nothing to be ashamed of.
On the other side of the spectrum is Vernon Adams, the dynamic FCS player who showed the flare and highlight reel material that has captivated Duck fans. The only question is whether or not he will be able to adjust to the limelight of the Pac-12 and continue his high level of play. With such uncertainty about who will lead the Ducks, there is one thing for certain: Scott Frost will be able to relate to the quarterbacks during their successes as well as their mistakes. This comfortability from a coach is a rare asset that few teams possess and should pay huge dividends for the team.
When asked about the difficulties he faced and how they can be applied to this team, Frost said, “We’re going to be a good enough team that we threaten everybody we play, but we might not win them all. If we don’t, there are going to be unhappy people no matter what, and you have to have prepared your mind for that.”
Back when I was applying to colleges, my dad would constantly explain to me how he went through the same process and that I should listen to him because he had the experience that I lacked (blah blah blah). As much as I hated to admit it, the old guy was right and although 25 years had passed, his methods were the most successful.
It would be absurd not to say that the post-Mariota era is nerve-racking. Statistical expectations and college football playoff aspirations will be at all-time highs with the spotlight shining brighter than the sun. With 10 days until the Ducks storm the field, Lockie and Adams ought to take a seat and pick the mind of their sensei Scott Frost in hopes to obtain the abundance of knowledge he has in his arsenal.
Top photo from Kevin Cline