When I first heard Bryan Bennett was likely leaving the Oregon football program, I thought of Nate Costa.
Costa came to the Ducks with tons of talent and potential, but injuries and bad timing kept him on the bench for much of his UO career. Except for those times when Oregon really, really needed a reliable backup to step in, or a reliable holder on field goals (see: Oregon vs. Arizona, 2009) and PAT's, where he was free to audible and go for 2.
Costa was stuck behind Dennis Dixon, Brady Leaf, Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas during his time as a Duck, but he stuck it out as long as his ailing knees would let him, and he left his mark on some prolific, winning seasons at Oregon.
When redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota was named Oregon's starting QB over Bennett for this season, the immediate response from many Ducks fans was one of hope that Bennett would stick around despite not getting the job. He's a talented guy, and it'd be easy to understand him wanting to go somewhere he could play, especially with writing on the wall that Mariota has a chance to be one of the best ever at Oregon. Meaning, simply, that Bennett might not ever get off the bench.
I can't blame Bennett if he doesn't want to tackle the same roles Costa took on. These guys are competitors, and they want to play, not sit.
But the truth is, Oregon can ill afford for Bennett to leave, at this point. It's too early -- in the season and in Mariota's career -- for the Ducks to be without a guy who's ready to step in. Bennett proved last season that he can help the Ducks win games when called upon, just as Costa did in '09.
If he leaves now, Oregon is left with true freshmen Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie as the only other quarterbacks under scholarship. The Ducks also have walk-on Dustin Haines.
With either Bennett or Mariota at the position, the Ducks still look like a powerhouse. To wit, they were tabbed No. 5 in both the Associated Press Top 25 poll and the USA Today poll before the starting QB was announced. But after Bennett, the position gets real thin real quick.
The word Tuesday was initially that Bennett was set on transferring, then it shifted to reports that he was considering staying, after all.
Remember, coach Chip Kelly almost left this past offseason, deciding at the last second to turn down an offer to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ducks fans should be hoping he can convince Bennett to stay in Eugene, as well.
Adam Sparks has been following Oregon Ducks football since 1990, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
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