With Marcus Mariota potentially ending his Oregon career after this season, it's time to look towards the future of the Ducks' QB position
Mariota has been running the Ducks offense, and running it well, for three-years now, but there's a good that he elects to enter the NFL Draft come next Spring, leaving Oregon searching for a replacement. From Dennis Dixon to Darron Thomas, and now onto Marcus Mariota, the Ducks have had an impressive stretch of talented quarterbacks. For Oregon to stay on the map in 2015, and contend for a PAC-12, or national title, having a competent starter under center is key, be it Mariota or another name. As far as in-house options go, the Ducks have Jeff Lockie, a former three-star recruit, who will be entering his junior season with Oregon. Behind him, there's Ty Griffin (brother of elite running-back recruit Taj Griffin), a freshman transfer from Georgia Tech, Taylor Alie, a former walk-on, and Morgan Mahalak, a highly touted four-star freshman from the recruiting class of 2014.
Despite all of the options the team can go with that's currently on the roster, there's several recruits that the Ducks could look to pursue. After all, when you're trying to replace someone who passed for 3,665 yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore, you need to look in every direction possible.
The Ducks pursued several five-star quarterbacks in the 2015 recruiting class already, including Blake Barnett, Jarett Stidham, and Kyler Murray. The three committed to Alabama, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M, respectively. While the Ducks didn't land any five-stars, they did receive a commitment from Travis Waller (you can read more about him below) a four-star recruit.
If Oregon still wanted to add any five or four-stars from the 2015 recruiting class, they're out of luck. But, if they still wanted to scoop up a three-star going under the radar heading into the Fall, they certainly have the chance to do so.
Travis Waller: The four-star, dual-threat quarterback out of Anaheim, California, committed to Oregon this Summer. What made Oregon Waller's number one choice was their fast-paced spread offense, which he's currently playing in now as a senior at Servite High. He'll likely be competing for some early playing time his freshman year as a Duck, especially if Mariota declares for the draft.
Waller seems prepared and excited to immerse himself in the Ducks' offense, and hopefully lead it on plenty of successful scoring drives:
"It's very similar, fast tempo, I didn't see much of a difference" in the offense, he said. "I talk to (UO offensive coordinator) Scott Frost a lot. He just explained how I can fit in the offense and why I'm essential in the offense and why I can succeed."
If Marcus Mariota does indeed declare for the draft, the 6'3" Waller will likely be in the mix to compete for a starting role come next camp.
Eric Dungey: Dungey, a three-star recruit out of Lakewood, Oregon, is one of the top in-state quarterbacks to appear on most major recruiting lists. Dungey has yet to receive an offer from Oregon, but given the fact that he's a dual-threat quarterback and a local kid, it may raise the Ducks' interest as the season goes on.
Dungey has received offers from UNLV, Air Force, Montana, Wyoming, and several others. Oregon has yet to step in and make a move for Dungey (or show too much interest, for that matter) but as the high school season progresses, Oregon's interest could grow.
For a highlight tape from Dungey's junior season, click here.
Cade Smith: Like Dungey, Smith is another in-state boys. Cade is actually the the younger brother of former Wyoming star quarterback Brett Smith, and will certainly be looking to make a name for himself when his college career begins. The 6'2' senior out of West Salem has received an offer from just Wyoming up to this point, but is receiving interest from several other schools, including the University of Oregon.
As a junior with West Salem, Smith completed 64% of his passes for 1,958 yards and 26 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,029 on the ground. Like both Dungey and Waller, Smith is a dual-threat. It's hard to argue that bringing in another running quarterback wouldn't be a good idea, given the recent success of Marcus Mariota in the system.
Pairing either of these three with a solid line of blockers, and fast backs with pass-catching abilities might be the best way to replicate the level of play that Oregon's offense demonstrated in the past two-years.