Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota will be named Oregon’s starter in a surprise over third-year starter Bryan Bennett.
Bennett was the primary backup to Darron Thomas, who shocked many in the program when he turned pro after his junior season, and has three full seasons in coach Chip Kelly’s offense.
Oregon opens the season Sept. 1 at Autzen Stadium and doesn’t play a road game until Sept. 29. The opener will be Mariota’s first in-game action in the fast-paced spread, read-option offense. He has gamebreaking speed and has been noted as an accurate, decisive passer by Kelly.
Bennett saw limited action last year and was forced to compete for the job with Mariota for the past seven months despite playing very well when Thomas was injured in 2011.
Oregon doesn’t have a marquee opponent to open the season for the first time in several years.
The Ducks should be fine at running back with Kenjon Barner, who has run for more than 1,800 yards in three years as James’ backup. He ran for 971 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.
“I’ve been in this position before, quite a few times throughout my career,” Barner said. “When my name is called upon, yeah, it will be called upon more often now, but it’s nothing new. So not too much pressure at all.”