With Signing Day officially in the books, so is the 2012 campaign for Oregon football. However, as one chapter closes another one opens and it's never too early to take a sneak peek at the upcoming season. DuckTerritory's "Offseason Burning Questions" series takes a look at each position on the Oregon depth chart and addresses the biggest questions at each spot, priming Duck fans for what they can perhaps expect in 2013. Today, the series kicks off with an examination of the quarterback position.
There is no question that Marcus Mariota will be the trigger man at quarterback for the Ducks next season.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart:
Who backs up Mariota?
After a stellar redshirt freshman campaign that was capped off by an MVP performance in the Fiesta Bowl, first-team All-Pac-12 recognition, and Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year honors, there is no doubt that Marcus Mariota enters next season as QB1 atop the Oregon quarterback depth chart. The biggest question however is who establishes themselves as Mariota's backup? With the transfer of former second-stringer Bryan Bennett from the program in January, redshirt freshmen Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie are left as the primary contenders for Bennett's vacated position once spring drills begin in April. Of the two, Rodrigues is the better athlete and reportedly has the stronger arm, but it remains to be seen just how healthy Rodrigues is after suffering a gruesome leg injury in his final game as a high schooler in 2011. If Rodrigues shows signs of struggle rounding in to form, don't be surprised to see Lockie take advantage, but indications from the fall suggest that this could be Rodrigues' battle to lose.
Will Mariota's expected duties change with Helfrich as head coach?
It's hard to see Mariota's duties changing too drastically with Helfrich now calling the shots. Naturally, one could assume that Oregon will rely more heavily on the pass considering the youth and relative inexperience that exists at the running back position to begin the season, but it would seem unwise to try and reinvent the wheel offensively given the tremendous amount of success Oregon has had running the ball in recent seasons. Mariota will no doubt be better equipped to shoulder more of the load with a full year as the starter under his belt, but the Ducks aren't exactly hard up for playmakers at other positions on the offensive side of the ball. Expect Helfrich and the offensive coaching staff to more or less continue the lethal and balanced attack Oregon has been known for.
Does Hobbs stick at quarterback for the entire season?
Seeing as how that's the position Oregon recruited him to play, it's fairly safe to assume that that will be case. Typically, the Ducks like to give incoming players with the ability to play multiple positions at least one year to try their luck and compete at the position of their choice. After that however, all bets are off. Similar to Daryle Hawkins, I'd expect incoming freshman Damion Hobbs to be afforded every opportunity to prove himself at quarterback his first year on campus. Yet, like Hawkins, an inability to stack up or separate himself from players the likes of Rodrigues and Lockie after next season could very well have the coaching staff searching for other ways to get the athletic Hobbs involved.