Over the past few days following the Oregon Ducks’ victory over the Colorado Buffaloes, I’ve seen and heard countless voices proclaiming Bryan Bennett should be the starting quarterback.
At first I was certain they were joking, but they’re completely serious.
The thought of replacing Oregon’s proven starter who has led the program to its first ever national championship game for a freshman who put up average numbers against the worst defense in the Pac-12 is beyond me. Darron Thomas is the starting quarterback of this team and that won’t change any time soon because he is the right man for the job.
First of all, Thomas is by far the better player at every facet of the position.
Starting with passing, Thomas has completed 92-of-150 passes (61.3 percent) for 1,227 yards with 17 TDs to just three interceptions for a 163.4 QB rating.
To put those numbers in perspective, Bennett has only completed 20-of-38 passes (52.6 percent) for 273 yards with four TDs, no interceptions for a QB rating of 147.7.
Thomas has completed nearly 10 percent more of his passes, and has a much higher QB rating.
Bennett has short-hopped many of his passes, and hasn’t looked totally comfortable passing the ball, leaning on his athleticism to save him. In Bennett’s limited action, it has been his ability to run the ball that has been so impressive. Not his throwing abilities.
But there is so much more to the quarterback position in Chip Kelly’s offense than being a good athlete.
The most run (and most important) play in Oregon’s offense is the zone-read. Nobody runs the zone-read as well as Darron Thomas! Nicknamed “Go Go Gadget Arms” by ESPN, Thomas and his ridiculously long arms can run the zone-read unlike any Ducks’ QB.
In the zone-read, the quarterback has the option of handing the ball off or keeping it. While Thomas prefers to give the ball up to Oregon’s dynamic backs, Bennett has a tendency of keeping the ball and trying to force something that isn’t there.
Bennett has found a lot of success running the football, rushing for 165 yards on 17 carries, but whom has it come against?
Bennett recorded the majority of his yardage on the ground and through the air in last week's game against the Colorado Buffaloes, but is that really so impressive? Colorado ranks No. 117 out of 120 FBS schools in points allowed per game and 96th in pass defense.
Against the worst defense in the Pac-12 conference, Bennett barely completed 50 percent of his passes. Thomas’ numbers absolutely destroy Bennett’s, and that’s against the likes of LSU and Arizona State; slightly better defenses (note the sarcasm).
Bennett has taken advantage of gaining mass yardage on poor defenses and has looked more athletic because of it.
With all that said, I feel much more comfortable with Bennett as a backup then I was before, but he’s still that: a backup.
Thomas is the clear starter, and the only way that changes is with an injury or suspension. Give Bennett another year to sit behind Thomas to learn, and he will be a well-prepared quarterback when his time to start comes.
In the meantime, the use of Bennett as a decoy and for trick plays is what his role should be. Bennett has already lined up as the punter on a fourth-down play, and lining him up in the slot for a double pass could be a valuable asset.
Bennett has a long future ahead of him, but it’s time to be realistic. Darron Thomas is No. 1.
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