2009 Oregon Ducks Preview: Quarterback

Charleston Duck@@charlestonduckContributor IJune 29, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 30:   Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli #2 of the University of Oregon Ducks runs into the endzone for a touchdown against the Oklahoma State University Cowboys during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 30, 2008 in San Diego, California. The Ducks won 42-31. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

You have to go back to 2005, before Kellen Clemens senior season, to find when the Ducks felt this confident about their quarterback situation.

Going into this season, Athlon Sports ranks the Oregon quarterbacking unit the fourth best in the nation, putting Jeremiah Masoli and company right behind Heisman Trophy finalist Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy.

Anyone who watched the last three games knows exactly why.  Jeremiah Masoli made opponents dizzy trying to stop him.  If he wasn't running the zone read to perfection, he was hitting his receivers in stride for touchdowns. 

Masoli, the 5'11", 214 pound junior from Daly City, California passed for 1,744 yards with 13 touchdowns (five interceptions) after transferring to Oregon from CCSF right before fall camp.  Injuries to Nate Costa and Justin Roper forced the Oregon coaching staff to use Jeremiah in last years season opening win over Washington.

When Justin Roper hurt his knee in overtime in the week three win over Purdue, Masoli was named the starting quarterback.  Unfortunately, Jeremiah also was hurt in the first quarter of the Boise State game, forcing the coaches to rely on true freshmen Chris Harper and Darron Thomas for the remainder of the game, which Oregon ultimately lost 37-32.

Masoli started the remaining nine games for the Ducks in 2008, showing remarkable improvement and potential.  Enough so that Oregon finished the season 10-3 and ranked in the top 10 of both polls.  Masoli's grasp of the starting position going into this season prompted Justin Roper to transfer to Montana.  Chris Harper, recognized that he wasn't ever going to be a starting quarterback for the Ducks, so he too decided to transfer (back home to Kansas State).

Where as Dennis Dixon ran the read-option with speed and elusiveness, Masoli showed that he wasn't afraid of contact and often punished defensive backs who tried to tackle him. Masoli finished the 2008 season with a remarkable 718 yards rushing (5.7 yard avg.) and 10 touchdowns. 

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Backing up Masoli this season will be junior Nate Costa.  Costa, the 6'1", 215 pounder from Hilmar, California has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries.  Costa, who was slated to start last year before tearing his ACL during the final week of fall practice, has shown that he has the physical skills to effectively run the spread offense.  As the veteran of the unit, he also has the confidence of his teammates. 

Ideally, Oregon would love to redshirt Darron Thomas this season.  The 6'3", 200 pound sophomore from Houston looked brilliant in limited action last season.  While the comparisons to Dennis Dixon may be premature, Thomas has shown that he has all of the tools and is a perfect match for the Duck's spread attack.

With the transfers of Roper and Harper, true freshman Daryl Hawkins will be the emergency quarterback in 2010.  The 6'4", 190 pounder from Omaha was signed this February as an "athlete."  Injuries cut short his senior season, allowing him to slide under the radar of many recruiting services and head coaches.  Given that Oregon has been forced to use five quarterbacks each of the last two seasons, one cannot assume that Hawkins will automatically redshirt.