June 09, 2010
Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, already relegated to the bench for the entire 2010 season after pleading guilty to a campus burglary earlier this year, is officially a former Oregon quarterback today following another run-in with local police. The one-time Heisman candidate was cited Monday night for driving with a suspended license and possessing less than one ounce of marijuana, usually petty misdemeanors that have nevertheless ended his college career, effective immediately.
Masoli isn't one of those guys who threw away all the talent in the world, but his early exit is obviously a wasted opportunity. A short, unheralded junior college transfer with a juvenile record and lacking great speed or arm strength, he only got his shot in 2008 after two veteran quarterbacks in front of him went down with season-ending injuries early in the year. Masoli ended that season by literally running over Oklahoma State in a breakout performance in the Holiday Bowl, establishing himself as the respected trigger man of one of the most high-octane attacks in the country. For an encore, he led the Ducks to at least 37 points in eight of nine Pac-10 games last year, their first outright conference championship since 2001 and their first Rose Bowl since 1995.
For his final act, Masoli would have entered his senior season as a legitimate Heisman contender on an offense that returned nine other starters for a serious run at the national championship. Instead, he was lucky only to be suspended as the most high-profile member of a startling string of legal trouble involving half a dozen players in February and March. Coach Chip Kelly, noted during his debut season for his flexibility toward disgraced running back LeGarrette Blount, mercifully reserved the right to reinstate Masoli for his final season of eligibility in 2011.
Now that second chance is up in smoke, too (no pun intended). With no apparent NFL future – even he left with a perfect personal record, Masoli's never been a pro-style passer – it's anyone's guess where Masoli goes from here, beyond a June 24 court date, where he'll also have to answer for violating probation.
Kelly's fast-break spread attack has rolled on since his arrival as offensive coordinator in 2007 regardless of the personnel – Masoli's predecessor at quaterback, Dennis Dixon, was also a Heisman candidate, and 2009 freshman LaMichael James was the fourth different Duck running back to top 1,000 yards rushing in three years. Masoli's replacement will be either fifth-year senior Nate Costa, who was pegged to be the starter ahead of Masoli before going down with a preseason ACL injury in '08, or redshirt sophomore Darron Thomas, another athletic sort who played a little as a true freshman in '08 and fits right into the usual read-option mold out of the shotgun. Even without Masoli, this offense already projected as another prolific attack with designs on repeating as the Pac-10 champ.
For Masoli personally, though, it's a shame to see a guy who seemed to overcome so much on the field come up so short, again. Godspeed, to an entertaining player and his thick ankles.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.