Wow. That’s about all you can say.
I can’t imagine too many people felt that when quarterback Darron Thomas led Oregon to a 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl that it would be the last game the junior would play for the Ducks. However, according to Oregon’s SID Andy McNamara, Thomas has indeed decided to pass up another year with UO and try his luck in the 2012 draft.
Thomas will join Ducks running back LaMichael James in the draft, but this move is far, far more unexpected than the one James made just a week ago.
“I came to this decision on behalf of myself and my family,” Thomas said. “I have a dream of playing in the NFL and I’m going to pursue those dreams.
“I would like to thank everyone in Oregon for all their support and I would thank the coaches for all their help, especially Coach (Chip) Kelly.” Thomas added. “I love my teammates and wish them the best of luck, and am confident they will continue the winning tradition that has been established. Last but not least, I thank all the Oregon fans for their help and support.”
Thomas said back in December that he would return for another year with Oregon, but as we’ve learned again, those words can only be taken so far.
Below is a statement from head coach Chip Kelly.
“As in all cases, we educate our players with the information we feel will be beneficial to them throughout the process but ultimately, the decision is left up to the players. I will always support Darron in his decision and want to thank him for everything he has done for this program. He obviously has played a major role in elevating Oregon football to new heights and I wish him well in the future.”
Thomas finished the 2011 season with over 2,700 yards passing, 33 passing touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He finishes with 5,910 yards passing for his career with 66 touchdowns.
The controls for Oregon’s offense now rests in the hands of redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett, who saw some significant playing time when he was asked to fill in for Thomas during the Arizona State and Washington State games this season.
The move to replace Thomas with Bennett during the half of the Ducks’ game against Wazzu caused some to wonder if the Ducks were going through the ol’ quarterback controversy routine, something Kelly and Co. adamantly denied.
But now the Ducks have lost their star running back and quarterback to the NFL. It’s too early to tell if that will affect Oregon’s chances at another Pac-12 title — USC is now apparently a Top 5 favorite again — but it does make the conference race a bit more interesting.