Questions surround the QB position following Mariota’s departure
“Next man up” is a motto that has come to define the Oregon football program’s approach to position changes. Following Marcus Mariota’s decision to enter the NFL draft, the question of just who that next man under center will be is far from answered. In his three seasons as a starter, Mariota led the Ducks to a conference championship, three bowl victories, and a National Title appearance. He was named Pac-12 player of the year three consecutive times, set school, conference, and national records, and became the first Heisman Trophy winner in U of O history. While replacing a player of Mariota’s caliber is a challenging feat, the Oregon coaching staff will have no shortage of candidates contending for the position this off-season. The likely replacement looks to be redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie, who spent three years behind Mariota. At 6’ 2’’, 200 lbs., he provides the size and skill set necessary to run Oregon’s up-tempo offense and distribute the ball to the team’s numerous weapons. Although largely untested, Lockie is the most experienced of the group and is projected to take a majority of the first-team snaps when workouts commence. Behind Lockie on the depth chart is redshirt freshman and Eugene native Taylor Alie. The former Sheldon High School signal-caller was perfect in his place-holding duties this season and passed for a momentum-shifting two-point conversion in Oregon’s Rose Bowl victory over Florida State. Alie proved to be a standout performer last spring and is poised to make further strides in his third year. Also in the conversation is redshirt freshman Morgan Mahalak. A four-star recruit with duel-threat capabilities, Mahalak forwent on-field action this season and spent the year studying the Ducks’ system. He will be competing against fellow second-year player Ty Griffin, a talented transfer from Georgia Tech with experience running the option. As if Oregon’s current roster didn’t boast enough options already, a pair of possible transfers could shake-up the quarterback race even further. Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams, who will have one year of eligibility remaining after graduating this spring, visited Eugene this past weekend. It’s also been argued that Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, a three-year starter for the Buckeyes before injuring his shoulder prior to the 2015 season, would be a perfect fit for the Ducks’ offense. With two proven quarterbacks vying for the job in Columbus, it’s possible that Miller could conclude his collegiate career in Eugene. The final name in contention is highly-touted recruit Travis Waller. Waller was ranked as the fifth best duel-threat quarterback in his class by Rivals.com and earned a spot in this year’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The Anaheim native will graduate from Servite High School early and arrive on campus in time for spring practice. With so many potential options, all eyes will be on Eugene this off-season as players contend for the starting spot. Fans’ first opportunity to see the quarterback battle unfold in person will be the Ducks’ annual Spring Game on May 11 at Autzen Stadium.