Vernon Adams still not a Duck, so Jeff Lockie looks to lead
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon opened fall camp with ongoing uncertainty about who will replace Marcus Mariota as starting quarterback.
Jeff Lockie was the backup last season, but saw little playing time as Mariota led Oregon to the championship game.
Now, Lockie is the top player in camp to succeed Mariota - at least until the anticipated arrival of former Eastern Washington star Vernon Adams.
Adams is supposed to join the Ducks as soon as he finishes the last course he needs to graduate. The fifth-year senior can't play for the Ducks until he's got a diploma.
He was supposed to arrive in June, but that was pushed back. As the Ducks opened practice on Monday, Adams was still a few days away from completing a final math class. He may join the Ducks this week.
Lockie, meanwhile, was making the most of the extra time to make his case, especially when it comes to leading a team he already knows well.
''The main thing I've been focused on is improving myself and doing all the natural leadership things that I can do,'' he said.
In 19 games, Lockie has completed 29 of 41 passes for 264 yards, one touchdown and one interception. In the spring game, the 6-foor-2, 205-pound junior completed all nine of his passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns, leading his team to a 35-29 victory.
Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner, led the Ducks to a 13-2 season that included a Rose Bowl win against Florida State before a 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the national championship game last January. Leaving with a year of eligibility, Mariota was selected second overall by the Tennessee Titans in the NFL draft.
''I don't think anyone can fill Marcus' shoes - very few could do that - we're just trying to be ourselves and do what we do best,'' Lockie said of Oregon's quarterbacks group. There are five quarterbacks on Oregon's roster, minus Adams.
Coach Mark Helfrich said the quarterback competition, whatever that looks like in the end, will sort itself out. He said that ideally it will be apparent before the opener.
''In my opinion you can't say that by August 29th, or whatever the date, you're going to name a guy. That has to play out,'' Helfrich said. ''It's kind of like leadership.''
Adams was a two-time Big Sky Conference offensive player of the year and a two-time All-American. He threw for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns in three seasons at Eastern Washington.
Two of Adams' most memorable games came against the Pac-12: He passed for 411 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 107 yards and two TDs in a 2013 win at Oregon State, and he threw for 475 yards and seven touchdowns in a 59-52 loss at Washington last season.
Senior Byron Marshall, who has played at both running back and receiver for the Ducks, said the sideshow is amusing.
''It's like, `Well, when is he coming in? Is he going to be the starter? Is it Lockie? Is it Vernon? Is it Lockie? Is it Vernon?' I'm like, I don't know. It's whoever the best man is, is going to play,'' Marshall said.
''The coaches will see that and we'll see that. It will be obvious on the field who will be better. Right now, I don't care, really, I just want to play football.''
Oregon returns eight starters on offense, including wide receiver Bralon Addison and left tackle Tyler Johnstone, who missed last season with injuries. In addition to Mariota, key departures on offense include center Hroniss Grasu and left tackle Jake Fisher.
The Ducks lost five defensive starters, including defensive end Arik Armstead, who left school with eligibility remaining.
As fall camp started, Oregon was hurt by the loss of running back Thomas Tyner, who was expected to miss the season after left shoulder surgery on Friday.
Tyner struggled with the injury last season and Royce Freeman had a breakout freshman year. The two were expected to be a potent ground attack for the Ducks. Marshall, who was expected to take on more of a receiver role this season, now may see plays running the ball.
Oregon is also awaiting word on the status of receiver Darren Carrington and whether he must sit out half of the season after failing an NCAA-run drug test during the football playoffs.