There’s virtual free agency for quarterbacks in NCAA Division One. Around the country every spring number twos stuff their backpacks and look for an opportunity to play elsewhere.
The only way to win a national title is for the starter to have an injury-free year. It’s rare to hang on to a quality backup.
It understandable Rodrigues got restless. Finally healthy, in the spring game he got to run around and played most of three quarters. He was the most impressive physically of the four understudy quarterbacks, zooming into the secondary for chunks of yardage a couple of times running the football, but he was 7-18 passing with an interception. Despite a good spring he’d failed to separate himself from the other candidates, and Morgan Mahalak, a talented, poised, fundamentally sound freshman joins the competition in June.
Jake can transfer to an FCS school, maybe one in his native Northern California to be near his fiancee and infant son, and be a starter next fall. He can recapture some of the joy he once had in the game. Though Duck fans wish him well, they’re also silently glad that reserve tackles and linebackers don’t typically do the same thing.
Oregon coaches have told Mahalak they want him to come in with the mindset of competing right away for the #2 job rather than anticipating a redshirt. He’s more ready than most freshmen, because he’s had elite passing academy training throughout his high school career.
The Ducks have become one of the destination schools for fast all-purpose running backs, but they still lag when it comes to stud linebackers and monster defensive linemen. Tuesday Jacob Daniel, a 300-pound defensive tackle from Clovis North High School in Fresno, chose USC over Oregon. The Trojans last 3 bowls are the Emerald, Sun and Las Vegas. They’ve made the top 10 once in the last five years, and are 1-3 against the Ducks, 0-2 against UCLA, but they still dominate West Coast recruiting, largely due to location, weather and tradition. Oregon has closed the gap competitively on the field, but they’re losing ground to SC in recruiting. The Ducks need to break through, particularly with bigs, and they may have to start working on a stronger pipeline to the South Pacific.
Terrance Mitchell and Taylor Hart got drafted, but so far Colt Lyerla hasn’t even been offered an NFL tryout. In all 37 early entrants didn’t get picked or picked up as free agents. The Dallas Cowboys got a steal in Mitchell, and the Eagles in Hart, because they are both players who know how to practice and know how to win. Those teams will profit from an infusion of Oregon-ness. For the Eagles, Chip Kelly now has seven former Ducks on the roster, including third-round pick Josh Huff, who has already signed a four-year contract.
Next year the Ducks could make a big splash in the draft, particularly if they make good on recent predictions by the Las Vegas oddsmakers and The Sporting News that have them among the favorites for the national title. Marcus Mariota could be the #1 overall pick, and both Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Hroniss Grasu will go early.
There are always question marks about a new season, nagging uncertainties, quibbles, graduation losses, and the occasional devastating injury. While it certainly hurts to lose Bralon Addison, the Ducks have a wealth of young, fast playmakers, and two legitimate offensive stars in Marcus Mariota and Thomas Tyner. Take another look at Mike Wine’s Oregon Spring Game highlight package, and note how smooth and dynamic the first-team offense was with those two in the game:
The PAC-12 title game has been officially moved from the home stadium of the team with the best record to Levi’s Stadium in the Santa Clara. The move undermines the importance of the regular season, guarantees a half-empty stadium and an embarrassment to the conference on national TV, and gives Stanford a home-field advantage over the rest of the conference.
While there is a strong contingent of Bay Area Duck fans, losing a potential home game in Autzen is a blow. One of the truly outstanding things about college football is the passion of home crowds in big games. This was a bad move by the conference, and a head-scratcher.