Following Monday afternoon’s practice -- Oregon’s second in preparation for their season opener this Saturday versus Arkansas State -- Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said his team has “no look” on the visiting Red Wolves. With a whole new coaching staff led by former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State figures to be a whole nother animal compared to the team that was fielded last season under current Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, according to Kelly.
Marcus Mariota will make his first career start vs. Arkansas State Saturday.
“You can’t look at Arkansas State tape, except to get personnel,” said Kelly. “They’ve got a new offensive coordinator and Gus will coach the offense himself, a new defensive coordinator, and a new special teams coordinator. When we watch Arkansas State and the games they played last year, you’re watching their personnel, but they’re not going to be deployed the same way.”
Getting used to facing unknown opponents will be something Kelly and the Ducks will have to grow accustomed to, as four of the Ducks’ first five games come against teams with coaches in their first year with their respective programs.
“Fresno (State) has a first year coach, Washington State has a first year coach, and Arizona has first year coach,” said Kelly. “You kind of know what Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez, and Gus Malzahn do offensively, but who are their defensive coordinators and who are their special teams coordinators is where some of those question marks come in.”
After being officially named the starting quarterback on Friday, Kelly said that there’s been no discernible change in redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota demeanor or approach as he prepares to make his first career start against Arkansas State this upcoming Saturday. Though butterflies will undoubtedly be present come game day, Kelly said that Mariota’s bearing “never changes.”
“His demeanor hasn’t changed since the first day he got here,” said Kelly.
Speaking with Mariota following Monday’s practice only seemed to prove Kelly’s statement, as one would have never guessed Mariota was preparing to take what could be a titanic leap for his football career starting Saturday.
“I just take it day by day,” said Mariota of preparing against Arkansas State. “I can’t really change my mentality. For me, it’s worked my whole life. I’m just going to continue to go out there and prepare just like all these other guys and we should be okay as an offense.”
If anything, Mariota says he’s looking forward to getting roughed up a little come Saturday night. After going nearly a year without taking a real, actual football hit, Mariota is relishing that old familiar feeling.
“I can’t wait to get that first hit to be honest with you,” said Mariota. “It’s been a little while since I got hit, but that’s not something I’m nervous about. I’m just going to go out there and continue to play and execute as an offense.”
One of the biggest surprises for many from Friday’s release of the Oregon two-deep depth chart was the inclusion of sophomore wide receiver Keanon Lowe among the starters at that position. Saturday, Lowe is poised to make his first collegiate start, and will do so alongside fellow wide receivers Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins. With so many young and talented players currently residing at the position, Lowe was somewhat considered an afterthought after starring on special teams a season ago. However, the opportunity doesn’t come as a surprise to Lowe, who says he’s been focused on earning a starting position for quite some time.
“It’s not really too much of a surprise for me, cause I’ve been working hard all summer and last spring and all fall camp,” said Lowe. “Hard work has been paying off, I got a long way to go, but I’m excited for the opportunities that are going to come my way.”
In Kelly’s eyes, Lowe’s steady progression and demonstrated work ethic has everything to do with him earning the start.
“I think he’s improved in everything,” remarked Kelly. “His approach to practice, his understanding in what we’re doing, his ability to be a playmaker...he’s tough, he’s physical, runs good routes, he has good hands; I just think his game, every year you’ve seen an improvement out of him.
“That’s what we hope for everybody. Some guys hit a wall and he doesn’t seem like he’s hit that wall. Every year, he’s better than he was in the past. The one thing he offers us right now is a consistency that you get from Keanon. Everyday, you can count on him day-in and day-out.”