The Oregon Ducks' football Twitter and rumor boards were ablaze this afternoon with numerous sources indicating that Bryan Bennett was set to transfer from the University of Oregon (h/t The Oregonian).
After Darron Thomas surprised the college football world by declaring for the NFL, many believed Bryan Bennett would assume the starting position for the Oregon Ducks. Yet, as spring camp started to approach, it was evident that redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota would also contend for the position.
Soon, Oregon fans became infatuated with Mariota and their latest quarterback competition.
They flocked to the Internet to find out who this mysterious quarterback was, and to their pleasure, found out that he was actually really, really good.
Hailing from the Aloha State, Mariota flew under the radar throughout his high school career and ended up in Eugene, Oregon where he immediately fit himself right into the Oregon offensive scheme. He impressed coaches with the way he was able to grasp the offense and make a smooth transition into the Oregon system.
And then came the Oregon spring game.
The 2012 Oregon spring game gave Oregon fans their first glimpse of both their potential starting quarterbacks, with many fans coming away from the game in awe of Mariota's ability to make big plays and fit right into the Oregon offense.
Some even called for Mariota to be named the starter right then and there. Chip Kelly would not have that.
Over the next few months, Bennett and Mariota would go toe-to-toe as they competed for the starting job at Oregon, each trying to state their case as best as they could.
And with just over a week left before their season opener against Arkansas State, Chip Kelly named Marcus Mariota the starting quarterback of the University of Oregon football program, a decision that was met with much joy throughout the Oregon fanbase.
While Oregon fans saw Bennett as a great athlete and option at quarterback, they saw Mariota as the next big thing to come out of Oregon. In fact, former Oregon running back and current Texas A&M Aggie Tra Carson tweeted:
Mariota is the real deal though seen him first hand— Tra Carson (@PlutoCarson) August 24, 2012
The hype surrounding Mariota was more than intense.
Bennett, meanwhile, was left on the sidelines.
He admirably went in front of reporters the day of the announcement, and though you could see some disappointment in his demeanor, reaffirmed his support for the Oregon football program and said that he would continue to do everything that he could to contribute to the Ducks (h/t 247Sports.com).
Then the rumors began.
First they were just grumblings in the dark about a key figure transferring from Oregon. Then they were sources close to the mysterious player saying that he will be transferring. Finally it was reported that Bryan Bennett, backup quarterback at the University of Oregon, would transfer.
The story first broke just after Chip Kelly's first game-day press conference of the year and hit the University of Oregon hard and fast.
Reporters flocked to the Casanova Center in hopes of getting hold of Bennett or Kelly just after the meeting to confirm the transfer, but nothing happened.
All the while the reporters were waiting on the sides, more and more people began to speak up on behalf of Bennett, saying that he would remain a Duck (via The Oregonian).
To say this was a roller-coaster day for the Oregon program is an understatement.
And at the end of the ride, it ended up right where the day began: with Bennett as the backup QB at the University of Oregon.
The decision, surely a tough one for a young man with a plethora of talent, was the right one.
First off, Bennett is sure to receive a lot of playing time (especially early on) this season. With opponents such as Tennessee Tech adorning the Oregon schedule, Bennett will get more than his fair chance of opportunities to prove to the nation that he is just as talented as Mariota.
If that is the case and Bennett plays very well early on, he could very well win the starting job from Mariota if he appears to be the better fit. Should he still remain the backup, Bennett still has the option to transfer after the year is over in order to earn more playing time at another school.
Second, Bennett could become the starter should Mariota get hurt (though nobody is wishing for that to ever occur). More of a consequence of the way the Ducks run their offense, the Oregon quarterbacks have always been prone to being relatively exposed and taking the big hit from time to time.
There is no doubting the toughness of Mariota, but the sheer physicality of Oregon's quarterback position should entitle Bennett to seeing some action later on in the season. If this is the case, this will once again be Bennett's time to shine. Just as he did last year, he can step in and demonstrate that he is still one of the better quarterbacks in the Pac-12 despite being a backup at his university.
Finally, who is to say that Kelly has not found a way to incorporate Bennett into the Oregon offensive attack?
As is evidenced by his 200 yards rushing last season, Bennett is a quick and elusive players who could fit nicely into some wrinkles in the Oregon offense. Perhaps Kelly puts him at the receiver position every now and then. Perhaps Kelly throws two quarterbacks in the backfield.
The only thing that is certain is that Chip Kelly always finds a way to get his most talented players onto the field.
Bryan Bennett is an extremely talented player.
Thus, Bennett can expect to still see significant playing time at Oregon, and he made the right decision in staying with a program that he has helped to defend the past two years.
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