News was that backup quarterback Bryan Bennett could have been transferring from the University of Oregon, but Chip Kelly wasn’t going to let that happen. Duck Territory was the first to report that Bennett will be staying in Eugene.
The hearsay, however, began when Bennett left Oregon Ducks writer Rob Moseley in the cold for an interview after practice this afternoon. Many began to wonder if he was missing from practice. Soon after, we learned that Bennett was meeting with Chip Kelly to discuss his future with the program. He was stopped on the way by reporters and was asked if he was still a Duck. All signs seem to report that he is (for now, thanks to head coach Chip Kelly) but it didn't appear to be that way all day.
“I don’t know,” Bennett told Oregonian reporter Aaron Fentress this afternoon.
Within a mater of minutes, Twitter and all Oregon Ducks football media big wigs began to catch on to the story.
“A well-placed source tells me that Bennett informed several teammates of his intent to transfer today. He headed into his current meeting with Chip to notify him of that decision,” writes Justin Hopkins of Ducks Territory. “To be clear, it was his intent to enter this meeting and notify the staff of his intent to transfer out of the program. If the meeting goes well for Oregon, he could end up staying.”
Hopkins was not the only one to take this observation to heart.
Uncertain about his presence at practice, reporters began to raise the question about Bennett’s future with the program.
There was initially immediate speculation that Bennett would transfer once quarterback Marcus Mariota was given the starting job. In his first press address since the Mariota decision was announced, he was asked if he’s considered transferring.
“No. Not right now,” Bennett said. Not right now? As in, Bryan Bennett does not plan on transferring today? Or should the statement be interpreted as that he was waiting until early this week? Or could the tealeaves be read as not until the end of the season?
Oregon fans were left to wonder what’s going on in Bennett’s head. Only a few days ago, Bennett was quick to reassure The Oregonian his immediate reaction upon learning that he would not be taking snaps for Oregon this season.
“I knew it could go either way,” Bennett explained. “It’s one of those things that ... you hoped didn’t happen. But it happened, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop working, I’m not going to stop grinding, [and] I’m not going to stop trying to get after this thing. My dreams aren’t over. This is just a little hump in the road.”
The hump in the road gave Oregon fans a scare on Tuesday, with just four days to go until the season began.
"A second source confirmed Bennett told him personally he was transferring and it was an emotional decision for him,” reported Ducks Territory writer Justin Hopkins. “He was saying goodbyes to teammates, [and] for all intents and purposes, he was gone.”
Until suddenly, the tides shifted as Aaron Fentress, Adam Jude and Matt Prehm all began to report that Bennett had seen a change of heart.
Sources now saying Bryan Bennett is likely staying at Oregon.— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) August 28, 2012
“Bennett claims he really didn't want to leave and my contact felt he was getting outside pressure to transfer," continued Justin Hopkins. "Chip met with Bennett and he got the ‘slight feeling’ he may end up staying.”
For Bennett, there was plenty of reason to leave. He’s a proven quarterback and even Chip Kelly would agree that he would start at almost any other program in the nation.
But Oregon Ducks history indicates that under Chip Kelly, a quarterback has never started every game of the season due to health concerns or otherwise. The retention rate that Chip Kelly has provided thus far to his players who have been on the roster to date is unbelievably impressive, and if Bennett were to walk he would be the first to do so under Kelly. As signs began to point to Bennett staying in Eugene, others began to question why he would walk in the first place.
Ss former Oregon Ducks defensive end Terrell Turner told me when we met earlier this month, “They’re both going to be great QBs. Chip Kelly is going to be playing both of those cats in every game.”
For whatever reason, there was a change of heart for Oregon quarterback Bryan Bennett.
“I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I have to worry about going to practice Monday, I have this season, it's not anything I don't want to do," said Bennett on Saturday, before transfer rumors solidified. "I don't want to leave this school, I love it here. I love my teammates; I love playing for the Ducks. This is where I want to be. In the future you never know what's going to happen, I still have to think what's best for myself. As of right now I want to be here and I want to be on this team.”
After the entire debacle went down, I feel as if there are three lessons to take from this.
The first takeaway is simply the depth of the talent that Marcus Mariota seems to bring forth.
“Bennett transferring might speak to how good Mariota is,” tweeted Heisman Pundit Chris Huston. “It would be second QB he's chased out of Eugene in a year.”
While Bennett hadn't officially announced that he did to decide to transfer, but the mere presence of Marcus Mariota seemed to have nearly broken down Bennett to the point of no return. It certainly played a part in Darron Thomas’s departure. We don’t know how good Mariota is yet, but today made me bizarrely excited to see him play.
The second lesson is the power of the team that the Oregon Ducks currently have, and the brotherhood that helps these players go into practice day in and day out and come out as better human beings.
“Love my team,” tweeted Oregon Ducks receiver Josh Huff as Bennett appeared to have come out of the meeting with Chip Kelly. “They set aside their personal goals & look at the bigger picture. Getting better everyday.”
The third, and perhaps my favorite lesson, is the prowess of Chip Kelly.
If the Oregon Ducks were unable to keep Bryan Bennett on the Oregon Ducks roster for the 2012 season, Coach Kelly would have found a way to make it work. I personally imagine imagine Chip Kelly’s first replacement target would have been “UCLA quarterback” and Oregon Ducks killer Bob Jones. (Come on, we could all use a laugh on a day like today. We almost lost Bryan Bennett. Now it seems like he’s staying. Smile.)
The fact of the matter is that all reports indicated that Bryan Bennett was on his way out of Oregon until he met with Chip Kelly. Like Kelly faced when dealing with rumors of his “transfer” to Tampa Bay last winter, his persuasive tone and knowledgeable intake has given the Oregon Ducks the best backup quarterback in all of college football.
We'll never know what Chip Kelly told Bryan Bennett when the two met for an extended period of time on Tuesday. But we know that whatever it was, it seems to have worked. And that's the best news an Oregon fan can receive.
As Dale Newton suggests, Chip Kelly’s best play was probably telling Bryan Bennett that they have “unfinished business” in Eugene. I certainly wouldn’t put it past him.
Bryan Kalbrosky is a student of Journalism at the University of Oregon and is a Featured Columnist for the Oregon Ducks on Bleacher Report. He also writes for the Trends N Topics Team. For more of his thoughts, opinions and stories, be sure to follow him on Twitter.