Mark Helfrich says the wrap-up scrimmage of fall camp will feature the young players. Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas have as much chance of seeing live contact today as I do of getting a date with Jennifer Aniston.
Johnny Who? Marcus Mariota is poised to have a fabulous sophomore campaign as the Oregon Ducks returning starter at quarterback. His preparation and focus in fall camp has been flawless. (Bruce Schwartzman, AP photo.)
The offense is fully installed by now, and the depth chart, while as unpublished as Ms. Aniston’s phone number, is very nearly set. A few players will have a chance to firm up the impressions they’ve made over the last few weeks. Reporting from Ducks practice, goducks.com editor Rob Mosely wrote, “In my opinion, Matt Wogan — as a kickoff guy at least — plus running back Thomas Tyner, tight end Johnny Mundt and outside linebacker Torrodney Prevot are the surest things in terms of freshmen likely to play this fall.”
That squares with everything fans projected and expected over the summer. All three had impressive high school highlight tapes and each of them plays at a position of need. Moseley tabbed the Robinson twins, Tyrell the linebacker and Tyree the safety, as two on which the coaching staff faces a hard decision.
Keep in mind, the redshirt is mythical. It doesn’t exist as a real thing, doesn’t mean anything until the end of the year when a freshman has completed a season without entering a game. Jeremiah Johnson’s redshirt season ended with a few meaningless plays at Stanford one season. Defensive linemen Alex Balducci “lost” the redshirt when he was pressed into service late last season beginning with the California game; by the time Stanford came to Autzen the defensive line was so depleted by injuries he was starting. Balducci, a 6-4, 297-lb. tackle from Central Catholic, is strong and powerful, and he’s going to be a fine player. But it was a lot to ask to have him start on short notice against the massive Stanford offensive line, giving up a year of eligibility because the team needed him right now.
Even so, the scrimmage tomorrow is a line of demarcation for the freshman. On Saturday a few will be taking practice reps to play against Nicholls State, and the rest will be wearing red jerseys and simulating the Colonels’ offense and defense. That doesn’t mean it can’t change in three or four weeks, though, so it’s best to look alive.
Helfrich hasn’t been specific about who’s won the nod at guard or wide receiver, and fans only know in general how the linebackers will line up. It isn’t Wiki leaks. Neither national security nor the likely margin of victory would be affected by sharing which receivers will line up with the first team offense, but the Oregon way has become to classify even mundane information. It’s all on a need-to-know basis, and fans don’t need to know, in spite of how intense the curiosity.
One thing that has leaked out is that Marcus Mariota is really good at football. Everyone, Moseley, Scott Frost, the head coach and the players have noted how sharp he is this season, precise, in command, completing passes in a great variety of situations to a variety of targets.
Mariota can make all the throws. We knew that, but what stands out in the reports and quotes we’re getting is that he’s become even smoother in his progressions and confident in his execution and reads. The game has slowed down for him. He’s distributing the football and finding windows that only great quarterbacks dare to find, and he’s done so with a striking consistency throughout camp. There’s a palpable buzz about his readiness. Always the real deal, he seems ready to have the complete, superb season fans envisioned he could have. Go ahead and click the link for tickets, and drop Direct TV. You’re going to want to see all of this.
Scott Frost speaking about his quarterback, receiver Josh Huff, and potential redshirts (video from the Oregon Daily Emerald):