EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Ducks opened camp Monday and as expected, the lingering quarterback questions took center stage.
Freshman Marcus Mariota and sophomore Bryan Bennett have 22 practices over the next three weeks to win the starting job for the Ducks' season opener against Arkansas State on Sept. 1.
It's a battle that began during the spring and carried over through voluntary workouts this summer.
"It's a very exciting day to start another season with the Ducks," said Bennett, the more experienced of the two quarterbacks after starting one game last season, a 45-2 win at Colorado, and playing in eight.
Coming off a 12-2 season that ended with a Rose Bowl victory against Wisconsin, expectations are as high as they have ever been for Oregon, the three-time Pac-12 champions.
All eyes are on the two quarterbacks in line to replace Darron Thomas, who was 23-3 as a starter, with 5,910 career yards passing, 66 touchdowns and 17 interceptions before leaving early for the NFL draft.
"I have a lot of faith in both those guys' abilities," coach Chip Kelly said of Bennett and Mariota. "Sam Rutigliano, the longtime NFL coach of the Cleveland Browns use to say, 'It's like a teabag, you don't know what you've got until you put it in hot water.' I anticipate them being very successful, but we'll see. That's obviously a big question for all of us."
Bennett played well when called upon last season, throwing for 369 yards and six touchdowns and no interceptions on 25 of 46 passing. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound speedster from Encino, Calif., also ran for 200 yards on 23 carries.
Mariota, however, was the star of the spring game back in April, throwing for 202 yards and a TD, rushing for 99 yards and two scores and leading his team to a 41-14 victory. One of his TDs came on an 82-yard run.
Meanwhile, Bennett struggled, completing 59 percent of his passes for 209 yards one TD and two interceptions.
Both of those performances have added intrigue to the position battle this month.
"It's an exciting time for us as a team," said Mariota, a 6-4, 211-pounder from Honolulu. "This competition will get us better."
Kelly said Monday he isn't opposed to playing both quarterbacks this season, but doesn't anticipate that will be the case.