Oregon Ducks: Why the QB Battle Isn't Chip Kelly's Biggest Worry
Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota? Marcus Mariota or Bryan Bennett?
While Oregon fans are wringing their hands over the question of who will start for the Ducks at quarterback, I suspect that Chip Kelly has other things on his mind. I know that I would if I were in his highly successful shoes.
The truth is that both Mariota and Bennett have all the necessary skills to be excellent Pac-12 quarterbacks. Leadership qualities, efficient arms, smarts, great attitude—both men have it all.
It has to be a luxury for Kelly that both his starting QB and the backup QB will have what it takes to get the job done in 2012.
So what other issues might be keeping Kelly awake at night? Here's what I would be worried about instead of Mariota vs. Bennett.
What If Kenjon Barner Goes Down?
I am excited that Kenjon Barner will, at last, have the opportunity to be the star running back for the Ducks. I expect him to have an award-winning, productive year toting the rock for Oregon.
But how many of you remember that horrendous collision in the 2010 Washington State game that left Barner with a concussion?
Yeah, me too.
That kickoff return by Barner, and the ensuing helmet-to-helmet encounter with Cougars safety Anthony Carpenter knocked Barner out cold. He spent the night as a guest in the Pullman hospital. The on-field collision led to anxious moments for Barner's family and Oregon fans and coaches.
If Barner should get injured again this season, I'm not sure who goes in, are you?
Obviously, De'Anthony Thomas will share the load, and sophomores Ayele Ford and Kenny Bassett both had productive spring games—especially Ford.
But we don't know yet if Thomas' feather-light frame can withstand repeated pounding at the line. And Ford and Bassett are unknowns in pressure-packed game situations.
Yes, I hear you out there: "What about Byron Marshall!?!", you're all shouting. I'm just as stoked about the 4-star recruit as you guys. But he's a freshman, and I haven't seen him run a single down yet. He may very well turn out to be some wonderful concoction of LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas, but we just don't know.
Will Josh Huff Be All That He Can Be?
Life would be so much easier if Josh Huff finally lives up to his potential at wide receiver. But there are questions.
After missing part of last year due to injury and not playing in the Ducks' spring game, there are questions about how healthy Huff is. Has he fully recovered? Will he be 100 percent in the fall?
Then there is the issue of his trial for a DUI citation. Huff has pleaded not guilty, and I believe his trial is scheduled for this month. If Huff is not convicted—innocent until proven guilty, remember—then it's all systems go.
If he is found guilty and slapped with some punishment, how will Chip Kelly react?
In my Pollyanna world, Josh Huff is not guilty, is feeling great and 100 percent recovered from his injury, and he has a blockbuster game on opening day.
But I worry.
And What About the NCAA?
Maybe Chip Kelly knows more about the status of the NCAA investigation than we do and has no worries about the outcome.
However, I'm worried. And the longer it goes on, the more worried I am. What is taking so long?
I hope that the reason why the NCAA hasn't announced their verdict in this case isn't because they are planning to make a spectacle of Oregon just before the start of the season. You know, "Here's an example of what we can do to a big college football program" (see USC)—that kind of thing.
Has the Oregon Secondary Matured Sufficiently?
My own personal nightmare is Matt Barkley repeatedly torching the Ducks' secondary in last year's most depressing game.
If Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill didn't grow up during last season's ups and downs, Oregon could be in for more trouble in the secondary this year. John Boyett (John Boyett for Heisman) can't do it all alone back there.
I understand that the Ducks have some depth at CB, but I'm not convinced that if Mitchell and Hill can't get the job done, there's a Superman waiting in the wings. With all the quality quarterbacks in the conference this year, if the Ducks don't see improvement at this position, games are going to be closer than they should be.
Piece of Cake
Whether Marcus Mariota or Bryan Bennett wins the starting QB job, Chip Kelly knows that the Ducks are in good hands.
So quit worrying about the quarterback position already!
There's plenty of other things to worry about if you insist on ruining your summer.
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