The Oregon Ducks, defending Pac-12 champions and College Football Playoff contender, will wrap up the spring practice schedule today in Autzen Stadium with the annual spring game (with some nice uniforms). Just days after seeing former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota be selected with the second overall pick by the Tennessee Titans, the question of who will ultimately replace Mariota in Eugene will be one popular question for head coach Mark Helfrich today. It also will not be likely to be answered definitively, which makes sense.
Earlier this week Helfrich joined his Pac-12 coaching fraternity for a spring conference call with the media. Asked about the quarterback situation, Helfrich said there is no timetable for when a decision will be made.
“I think ideally you are making that decision a week and a half before the first game,” Helfrich said, per The Oregonian. “The way you ramp up and build through fall camp, we are installing and doing different things. You want to put each of them in the best position to compete and play to their strengths. They you have a week and a half to prepare for that first game, that would be an ideal situation.”
The candidates to replace Mariota as Oregon’s next starting quarterback are Jeff Lockie, Taylor Alie, Morgan Mahalak, Travis Jonsen (he changed his name)and Ty Griffin right now, but FCS transfer Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington will join the program later this summer. Lockie and Adams are widely considered to be the top two candidates in the running, and Adams will get his chance to make his case once he arrives this summer.
As is the case at many college football programs in the spring, the quarterback question may have to wait. Lockie could put together by far the best spring performance today, but until Adams gets his chance to prove what he can do, Helfrich is wise to hold off on any decisions until much closer to the start of the season. This will be the first time Helfrich will be charged with naming a starting quarterback as well after taking over the program following Chip Kelly left for the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is currently attempting to build the Pac-12 All-Stars through the draft and offseason roster moves.
Helfrich inherited Mariota as his starter, so now Helrich gets to choose his quarterback.
Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman has an excellent feature on Oregon transfer Vernon Adams Jr. up, which is well worth a read.
There’s some interesting stuff in there — Adams’ decision to transfer from FCS side Eastern Washington to the No. 2 team in the nation wasn’t easy, and he’s training in a strip mall with what sort of looks like a Bane mask. But this stuck out regarding Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller:
Adams’ decision came down to Oregon or staying at Eastern Washington. Texas tried to recruit him but came in too late in the process, he said. Adams talked to UCLA and considered taking a visit there the week after he visited Oregon, but opted not to after thinking more about his situation. He said he had no idea what Miller might do, and that “Oregon told me straight up that they were coming after me and, if they didn’t get me, then maybe they go after him, but they said they were coming after me first.
Miller, of course, has yet to announce if he intends to leave Ohio State as a fifth-year graduate transfer. But if/when he does, it’ll trigger a free agent feeding frenzy Oregon was expected to participate in.
With Adams — who threw for 110 touchdowns and rushed for 11 more in three years at EWU — already in the fold, though, the Ducks likely will stay on the sidelines as teams try to woo Miller (and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson, if he decides to leave South Bend this spring). That’s high praise for a guy in Adams who didn’t have a single scholarship offer from an FBS school coming out of high school.
Adams would appear to be the frontrunner to replace Marcus Mariota, though he’ll compete for the job with junior Jeff Lockie, freshman Morgan Mahalak, incoming freshman Travis Waller and Georgia Tech transfer Ty Griffin.
It’s not often that an FCS player transfers up to the FBS. It appears, though, that at least one star at the Level Formerly Known as Div. I-A is at least contemplating such a move.
According to Jen Beyrle of The Oregonian via Twitter, Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams will be visiting Oregon this weekend. While not stated specifically in the tweet, the assumption is that the quarterback is considering a transfer to the Ducks.
247Sports.com is reporting that Adams has already been granted his transfer release, which seems to make a move to the Ducks imminent.
With Heisman winner Marcus Mariota leaving his remaining eligibility on the table and moving on to the NFL, UO will conduct a quarterback competition beginning this spring. The way it stands now, Jeff Lockie will enter spring as the front-runner, with competition being provided by redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and California product Ty Griffin, true freshman Morgan Mahalak and 2015 early signee and four-star recruit Travis Waller. There have also been rumors that Braxton Miller has an interest in transferring to the Ducks, although that talk has waned of late.
Adams certainly has the credentials to come in and compete immediately with the group that will be there as he would be a grad transfer.
In a 49-46 win over Oregon State in 2013, Adams accounted for 518 yards of offense and six total touchdowns — 411 and four passing, 107 and two rushing. A year later, Adams passed for 475 yards in a 59-52 loss to Washington.
Over the past two seasons, Adams has thrown for 90 touchdowns and ran for another 10. In 2013, he was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the FCS.
With news that Marcus Mariota is entering the 2015 NFL Draft, it is already time to shift ahead to see who will be leading the Oregon offense on the field in 2015. The job of filling the shoes of Mariota will be no easy task, but somebody has to do it. Barring the transfer of a player like Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, there are a couple options to watch during Oregon’s spring practices.
Jeff Lockie appears to be the frontrunner as things stand just by looking at the depth chart for the Ducks. Lockie made a brief appearance on the field in place of Mariota during the College Football Playoff national championship game against Ohio State, after Mariota was taken to the ground by Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa. Lockie, a former three-star recruit according to Rivals, is currently a redshirt sophomore, and is currently the most veteran of Oregon’s young quarterback stable. Lockie joined the Oregon program in the same recruiting class that landed four-star quarterback Jake Rodrigues to Oregon under former head coach Chip Kelly. Rodriguez eventually landed at San Diego State as things did not work out with the Oregon program. Rodrigue transferred to San Diego State prior to the 2014 season and will be eligible to play this fall.
Oregon’s other quarterbacks on the roster today are all freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Eugene native Taylor Alie and California product Ty Griffin are each redshirt freshmen, but neither are expected to make a serious run for the starting job this spring. Alie held a job as Oregon’s scout team quarterback in 2013. Both entered the same recruiting class as Damion Hobbs, a three-star recruit from Texas that has already transferred to Utah State.
True freshman Morgan Mahalak may have the most potential to replace Mariota in the fall. The former four-star recruit from California did play for Oregon this season but is used to waiting for his opportunity. He did so in high school before excelling to be one of the top passers in California. He was the only quarterback added to the Oregon roster in last year’s recruiting class, and now could be his time. The pro-style quarterback was the 11th-ranked pro-style QB in last year’s class according to Rivals could easily benefit from a strong showing in the spring as head coach Mark Helfrich attempts to settle on his next starting quarterback.Oregon also has four-star quarterback
As the spring opens up, the starting job could come down to Lockie and Mahalak. Oregon also has four-star quarterback Travis Waller lined up for the Class of 2015 (already has signed a letter of intent). As things stand now, there are no other quarterbacks in Oregon’s Class of 2015.