Monday, March 14, 2011

Finally Some Real Football--Moseley's talking quarterbacks

When Wes Byrum kicked that awful inevitable chipshot field goal, it seemed like an eternity until we'd be able to talk about real football again, but 2011 is hurtling along, shaping up to be the most rapid year of our lives. 

I had a friend explain once why that happens.  "When you're ten," he said, "A year represents one-tenth of your life, and it seems like a long time in passing.  When you're 50, it's a small fraction of the time you've lived, and it passes it no time at all." 

Still, on January 12th, waiting in the Phoenix airport, it seemed like a long agony of time waiting for that plane, surrounded by jubilant "War Eagles"; even longer until we could see and read about some football and get the taste of a bitter loss completely out of our mouths.

Yet sixty days passed pretty quickly, and now spring practice is just two weeks away.  Rob Moseley has his first preview up, the quarterbacks, and he reports that Darron Thomas will work on improving his footwork and mechanics this off season, and that the junior qb is taking his leadership role very seriously:

Thomas has told people around the team recently that he wants to skip spring break in order to get in ample strength and conditioning work prior to the start of spring drills. That's how a leader sets the tone.

Duck Tracks:  Between his first year starting and his second, Andrew Luck of Stanford improved his completion percentage from 56.3% to 70.7% and his passer rating from 143.47 to 170.16.  His touchdowns increased from 13 to 32; all this while losing Toby Gerhart.  Thomas and Luck were rivals as Houston preps, and so far DT is 1-0 against his hometown foe.  

In Thomas' first year starting, the sophomore completed 61.5% of his passes, a quarterback rating of 150.97 (the third highest in school history), 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

If Thomas improves on a curve similar to or exceeding his hometown rival, his junior and senior years could be pretty special.  Given his work ethic, the prospects are very good that he will.

One X factor in the Webfoot signal caller's potential is that this was only his fifth year playing the position full time.  He started his high school career as a wide receiver, moving to quarterback as a junior.  In his junior season at Aldine High he threw for 905 yards and six tds, very modest totals.   As a senior he improved to 2,576 yards and 11 tds, with more than 900 yards on the ground.  The exciting thing is this:  Darron Thomas is still growing into the position.  He's still improving, and he's shown  toughness and determination, the will to be great.  He's not one to be easily satisfied, not likely to grow cocky or consider himself above the law.  With all his athletic gifts, foremost is his character.  And that's refreshing.

It's heartening to hear he's taking the leadership role so seriously.

Duck fans have to be excited also about the development and potential of the two young quarterbacks in the system.  Bryan Bennett successfully completed his redshirt year, taking practice reps as the number two quarterback after Nate Costa went down.  He impressed observers with his arm, athletic ability and adaptability.

Ideally, Bennett gets some spot duty over the next two years and time to fill out and develop.  If he is pressed into a starting role, it's a situation he's faced before.  As a raw sophomore at Crespi high school, he had to take the reins when senior starter Kevin Prince went down with a knee injury in the season's first game.  Bennett responded, throwing for 2100 yards and 17 touchdowns as his team went to the state championship game.

Incoming freshman Marcus Mariota, who won't arrive on campus until this summer, already has fans buzzing about his potential as well:  6-4, 195 with a 4.4 40, a plus-4.0 grade average, and 32 touchdowns in his senior year versus 5 interceptions.  Smart, fast and polished, Mariota is the total package and a true duel threat.

This isn't to slight the young men ahead of him in any way.  Mariota has to get to school and do the work, just like they already have.  But coming in, he has the most exciting set of skills for playing quarterback in the Oregon system since you-know-who.  He has to prove it, but the potential is undeniable.  Relatively overlooked, coming from the Islands and not getting the fulltime starting nod until his senior year, Mariota may prove to be the steal of the college football recruiting season.  Chip Kelly offered the kid on sight the first day of Oregon's football camp last summer.

Kelly knows quarterbacks, and now he has three good ones who are perfect for the Oregon system.  And the fourth one, ultimate teammate Daryle Hawkins, is a steady, head-on-straight athlete who knows the playbook.  He'd do a credible job, if he ever had to give the cadence.  Just a sophomore this season, he's already done everything that's been asked of him, and shown some real potential in a variety of roles.

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