Don Ryan/Associated Press
Two-time first-team All-Pac-12 quarterback Marcus Mariota is back for his third season running the show, and the dynamic redshirt junior is a favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
Mariota already has the numbers to vie for college football's most coveted, individual prize. In his redshirt sophomore campaign, he threw 31 touchdown passes, was not intercepted until the penultimate week of the regular season, and was the Ducks' second-leading rusher with 715 yards.
The next step Mariota can take, head coach Mark Helfrich told CSNNW.com, is taking on more of an active leadership role.
"For him, it means having a more visible, outward sense of urgency," Helfrich said.
Indeed, leadership from the Ducks' prominent player will set the pace in a season that could culminate in championships. His injury down the stretch of 2013 proved that as Mariota goes, so go the Ducks.
But if he is forced out of the lineup, someone will have to answer the call.
Jeff Lockie appears to be de facto backup by virtue of fellow reserve Jake Rodrigues' transfer to San Diego State. Oregon also lost Damion Hobbs to transfer, leaving either walk-on Taylor Alie or incoming freshman Morgan Mahalak to be the Ducks' emergency third option.
Alie earned praise in the spring for his performance, while Mahalak comes in with 4-star pedigree and a style very much reminiscent of Mariota.