It's official, Oregon football fans -- Marcus Mariota is your new quarterback.
Not much of a surprise if you saw the Ducks' spring game in April, when Mariota wowed the Autzen Stadium crowd with his arm, legs, decision-making and poise.
Those attributes carried him into the starting quarterback role, after battling Bryan Bennett for the job since the start of spring practices.
The Ducks announced their decision on Friday, and as much as I liked what Bennett did last season, Mariota was the right choice, without a doubt.
UO coaches have raved about Mariota since he came to Eugene from Honolulu last year. He redshirted his first season in town, and now becomes the Ducks' first freshman to start at quarterback in a season opener since Danny O'Neil in 1991.
But make no mistake; this is not a rebuilding project for the Ducks. Far from it. Provided he's gotten down the nuances of Chip Kelly's spread-option offense -- and I'm doubtful Kelly would have tabbed him as the starter if he hadn't -- the Ducks should thrive under Mariota. He's built to run this sort of offense, perhaps moreso than Darron Thomas was. And Thomas was pretty dang good in it.
Former Ducks running back LaMichael James agrees with me.
"He will possibly be the best qb to ever play at Oregon!" James tweeted on Friday. "He's the real deal."
Mariota has put on a little weight since the spring, and is now listed at 211 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame.
Along with the news that Mariota would be Oregon's starter for the Sept. 1 season opener against Arkansas State, the Ducks released their first depth chart of the 2012 season.
The two-deep has Josh Huff and Keanon Lowe listed as the starting wide receivers, with Eric Dungy and B.J. Kelley as their backups.
Huff is also slotted as a kick returner, alongside De'Anthony Thomas, who will also serve as the primary punt returner and backup running back to Kenjon Barner. Not listed, of course, is the fact that Thomas will line up quite a bit as a slot receiver, meaning he and Barner will frequently be on the field together.
With sophomore Colt Lyerla having missed a handful of fall practices while tending to personal matters, he is not listed as the No. 1 tight end at this point, but he is one of three with an "or" designation behind Pharaoh Brown (T.J. Daniel and Koa Ka'ai are the others). And I suspect it won't be long before Lyerla is the clear-cut No. 1.
As expected, the Ducks' defense looks to be a tremendous strength on paper, as it likely will be on the field, with Kiko Alonso, Michael Clay and Boseko Lokombo as the starting linebackers; Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu as the cornerbacks -- and Dior Mathis and Troy Hill backing them up; John Boyett at free safety; Brian Jackson at strong safety; and a line that includes Taylor Hart and Dion Jordan at the ends and Isaac Remington and Wade Keliikipi at the tackle positions.
More Oregon football:
Adam Sparks has been following Oregon Ducks football since 1990, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Oregon Ducks football