Oregon Ducks Football: Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota, Why Choose?
One quarterback played like Steamin' Willie Beaman minus the throw-up ritual; the other quarterback looked like Brett Favre circa 2010.
The difference in play between Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett during Oregon's spring game last Saturday was more shocking than a Secret Service agent's idea of a Colombian vacation.
The last few months, Ducks fans have heard rumors that Mariota was an excellent and undervalued pickup by Chip Kelly, but no one, including this writer, believed he had any real chance at competing with Bryan Bennett, a second-year player with proven real game experience.
Mariota only received a 3-star ranking by most recruiting services. He didn't even start at Saint Louis High School in Honolulu until his senior year.
Yet last Saturday, he was all anyone wearing green and yellow could talk about. When he wasn't whipping the ball to Daryle Dawkins for an easy touchdown, he was discombobulating the dark team's defense on the way to an untouched 82-yard sprint into the end zone.
Mariota went 18-of-26 with a touchdown and interception on 202 yards passing and added another 99 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on his way to a 41-14 win.
His quacky counterpart on the other hand looked downright dumbfounded. Bennett's stats were actually somewhat comparable to Mariota's, but did not tell the story of his play. He finished with a touchdown and two interceptions on 19-of-32 passing for 209 yards, but played with a lack of confidence and made questionable decisions the entire day. Bennett's two picks were so bad they could have been intercepted by the hanging off part of Amare Stoudemire's hand.
Who Should Chip Kelly Go With As His Quarterback?
Of course, Chip Kelly will be the first to tell you, it was only one game, and a scrimmage at that.
Furthermore, Mariota had much better protection the entire day, while Bennett had to consistently face blitzing linebackers and was sacked three times on the day (by sacked, I mean gently touched behind the line of scrimmage).
Bennett has already shown he can play well when the score matters. His performance against Arizona State and Colorado last year showed he is fully capable of running Kelly's breakneck offense. Mariota has yet to demonstrate whether he can deal with real game pressures.
But, Saturday's results just made things a lot more interesting.
Kelly's quarterback decision suddenly contains as much controversy as a concussion-awareness PSA staring the New Orleans Saints coaching staff.
Does Kelly have to make a decision, though? If Mariota and Bennett are truly on equal footing, why not play both of them?
After Saturday, it appears Mariota has the edge in speed and mobility, while Bennett has the deep-ball ability and rocket arm.
Oregon's opponents would not only have to prepare for Kelly's caffeinated cheetah offense, but also for a dynamic dual threat at quarterback.
Two-quarterback systems have proven to be effective at the college level in the past. In 2007, LSU played Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux for the entire season and ended up with a national championship. Last year, Penn State played Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin for most of the season and started 7-1.
Dealing with two field generals with two different sets of skills can exponentially increase the difficulty of an opposing coach's preparations for game day. Given the built-in nature of Oregon's system, the Ducks could potentially pull off this unconventional method without missing a beat.
The good news is that Oregon has three snoozers to start the season in order to test out this approach. If in that time frame one of the quarterbacks begins to stand out as the clear choice, then you go with him for the rest of the season.
But until that point, two for the price of one may be the answer to Kelly's unfinished business.
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