Oregon's speeding locomotive of an offense finally has a new conductor.
After intense competition that began in the January, coach Chip Kelly finally declared redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota the Ducks starting quarterback.
Surprised? You should be.
Mariota was an unknown this time last year as he directed the third string and sat unassumingly behind now-departed Darron Thomas and backup Brian Bennett. And he was an afterthought for the starting job when Bennett shined against Arizona State and Colorado while Thomas was out with a knee injury.
In nine games, Bennett threw for 369 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
When Thomas decided to declare for the NFL draft, Bennett was the logical replacement without question.
But in the shadows, Mariota was putting in work and coaches and teammates were noticing. When he put on a show during the Oregon spring game, completing 18 of 26 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown and rushing for 106 yards on five carries and another score, the starting quarterback position officially became a competition.
Since then, Mariota has only gotten better. His rushing speed and quick decision-making make him the ideal candidate to lead an Oregon offense that defines fast, and gave Kelly little choice than to see what he could do against competition that wasn't wearing green and yellow. The only caveat is that Mariota's never played in a collegiate game, but that will come when Oregon opens the season at home against Arkansas State.
And at the very least, former players believe in Kelly's selection.
"He will possibly be the best QB to ever play at Oregon!" former running back LaMichael James wrote on Twitter. "He's the real deal."