The Oregon Ducks are involved in one of the nation's most compelling quarterback battles. As the Ducks get into their first scrimmage situations, the time has come for the players to separate.
As The Oregonian reports, Chip Kelly will employ officials and go live during several practice periods. Speed tempo is great. Thud tempo reveals plenty. But when the bullets are live, that's when the coaches will learn what they need to know about Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota.
Mariota wowed fans at the spring game, throwing for 202 yards and a TD, plus running for 99 yards and two more TDs. Bennett proved his worth in 2011 on the field, stepping in for Darron Thomas when needed and captaining the Ducks' ship brilliantly.
Unlike schools like Texas or Florida, teams bogged down in a quarterback battle because neither candidate has truly stepped up, Oregon has a unique quarterback scrap on its hands. They have two guys who are fully capable and have the coaches' confidence to run the show.
This is truly a quarterback battle; two guys, each capable of grabbing the reins and leading Oregon to another Rose Bowl, or perhaps more.
With officials coming in, pressure picks up and situations get more real. We'll see if the younger Mariota can handle the play clock, the game management and understand down and distance. We'll see if Bennett is able to get the ball out to his weapons and make the right reads as he tries to out-duel the freshman.
This is the most interesting quarterback race in the nation. It isn't a decision between the "less terrible" of the two. Rather this is two quality players both fighting to get field time. Going live is just another tool to help separate the two players.