EUGENE, Ore. » Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota has won the job as starting quarterback for No. 5 Oregon.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly announced Friday that the Saint Louis School alum earned the position over sophomore Bryan Bennett, who was Darron Thomas’ backup last season. Thomas left school early to declare for the NFL Draft.
Oregon went 12-2 last season and defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks open this season at home against Arkansas State next Saturday.
Mariota is the first freshman to start in an opener for Oregon since Danny O’Neil in 1991.
Kelly and Mariota were not available for comment Friday, the school said.
Bennett was the more experienced of the two QBs, having completed 25 of 46 passes for 369 yards and six touchdowns last season as Thomas’ backup. Bennett started in a victory over Colorado when Thomas was out with a sprained knee.
The 6-foot-4 Mariota showed he was very much in the compeition for the starting job during Oregon’s spring game on April 28, when he completed 18 of 26 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 99 yards and two scores — including an 82-yard scoring run — to lead his team to a 41-14 victory.
Bennett completed 19 of 32 passes for 209 yards and a TD in the spring game.
Oregon’s decision Friday was met with enthusiasm by former Ducks running back LaMichael James, who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
"He will possibly be the best qb to ever play at Oregon!" James posted to Twitter. "He’s the real deal."
Mariota is one of eight players from Hawaii on the Ducks’ roster. The team released its first two-deep depth chart on Friday, and it included four Hawaii players:
» Waianae’s Wade Keliikipi, who started the final 11 games last year, is a starter at defensive tackle.
» Saint Louis’ Mana Greig is the backup at left guard.
» Kamehameha’s Koa Ka’ai is listed as one of four potential starters at tight end.