Oregon Football: Why Oregon's Offense Will Become More Balanced in 2013

Shannon HartleyContributor IIIDecember 21, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03: Quarterback Marcs Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks throws a pass against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 3, 2012  in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Oregon's run-heavy offense has been among the nation's best in total yards the past few seasons with the majority coming on the ground. In 2013, it's likely Oregon's run-first offense will become more balanced with the capabilities of Marcus Mariota and his talented receiving corps.

Marcus Mariota has a far better arm than both Jeremiah Masoli or Darron Thomas. Chip Kelly was smart and utilized each of those quarterbacks talents, but throwing wasn't a strong point for either.

Mariota is more of the Dennis Dixon mold; he is comfortable in the pocket, throws with touch, and only uses his legs when he's flushed out of the pocket or executing a designed running play.

In Chip Kelly's first year as offensive coordinator at Oregon, he had Dixon throwing beautiful downfield bombs all season. I'm sure Michigan fans remember those long bombs as Oregon went into the big house and thrashed the Wolverines 39-7. Dixon threw three touchdowns of 46, 61 and 85 yards.

My point is that since Dixon left, Oregon has had subpar quarterbacks and phenomenal running backs to keep up the production—until Mariota.

With Mariota behind center and an experienced group of playmaking receivers, I would be astonished if coach Kelly doesn't look to the air more often next season.

Experienced receivers Josh Huff, De'Anthony Thomas, and Braylon Addison are all fast, elusive receivers that can make big plays with a five-yard quick slant or an over the shoulder 60-yard sideliner. Add incoming 5-star recruit Dontre Wilson to this unit and it becomes seemingly impossible to stop.

Chip Kelly most likely wanted to keep Mariota comfortable in his freshman season with a heavy-run and short-passing offense.

Next season, when Kenjon Barner is out of the picture, the Ducks are left with two very young running backs in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner (these two will get the majority of the carries).

It seems unlikely that Kelly would give either one of these two backs the rock on a third-down situation rather than having Mariota throw a beam to an experienced receiver to reach the sticks.

In a statistical comparison, in 2007, when Dennis Dixon was QB for the majority of the year, the Ducks only had 466 more rushing yards than receiving. In 2011, when Darron Thomas was quarterback, the Ducks had 1,059 less yards receiving than rushing.

That's almost 600 yards difference in receiving between those two years, about three games worth of passing.

Mariota has the arm, poise and weapons to lead an air assault in the 2013 season.

Johnny Manziel better watch out, Mariota's coming for that Heisman.