Mariota named starter for Oregon

Oregon will be starting a freshman quarterback for the first time in 21 years when the Ducks play host to Arkansas State Saturday night in Eugene, Oregon. AStateNation.com visited with several members of the Oregon media to get some insight about the Red Wolves next opponent. Go "Inside" to learn about Oregon's starting signal caller Marcus Mariota.

There is a couple of things that Arkansas State will have in common with Oregon when the two teams face off next Saturday in their 2012 season opener.

Arkansas State's defense will be starting a lot of young faces against one of the fastest offenses in the country at Autzen Stadium. Several who have never started a college football game.

Oregon is also in a similar position, Duck's Head Football Coach Chip Kelly recently named red-shirt freshman Marcus Mariota his starting quarterback for their opener against Arkansas State. Mariota will be starting his first college football game of his career when Oregon host Arkansas State next Saturday night on ESPN at 9:30 p.m. central time.

Mariota's start will mark the first time a freshman has started a season for Oregon at the signal caller position in 21 years, the last time was when Danny O'Neal started for the Ducks in 1991 against Washington State.

AStateNation.com recently visited with several members of the Oregon media to get their thoughts on Mariota being named the starter for the Ducks.

"Im not shocked about it," Aaron Fentress Beat Writer for The Oregonian said. "There has been a strong buzz about him since Darron Thomas declared early for the NFL Draft. I really thought that Bryan Bennett had the upper hand in the competition due to the spot duty he saw last year."

According to Fentress, the one upside that Mariota possess over Bennett is his throwing the ability.

"Mariota is definitely the better passer of the two," Fentress explained. "That's probably what won him the starting nod. He is uniquely special."

It appears that one former Oregon player likes Mariota being named the starter for Oregon against Arkansas State next week.

Oregon star running back LaMichael James, now a player on the 49's of San Francisco voiced his thoughts about Mariota on his Twitter.

"Mariota could be the best Duck Quarterback ever."

Those are big words especially since Dan Fouts played for Oregon.

"There is a lot of hype around Mariota," Fentress continued. "People definitely think he can be special, but the thing to remember is that he hasn't ever played in a college football game."

Fentress wasn't the only one to have an opinion on Mariota. Steve Summers, the Publisher of Fox Sports Next EDucks.com has heard a lot of talk about the Duck's newest quarterback.

"He is a guy that has a lot of upside," Summers said. "He didn't start in high school until his senior season. His body has finally caught up growing. He is very talented, he is known to have a big arm, one question mark was his accuracy. It appears that he has worked hard to correct that."

Oregon media is not allowed to watch any practices, but that doesn't keep Summers from having an opinion.

"Some are already comparing him with Andrew Luck," Summers said. "I think it's a little early to start doing that. I'm hearing a lot of his teammates saying that he is going to be really good."

Oregon's AP Beat Writer Anne Peterson agrees that Mariota will be one of the top story lines in this week's season opener against Arkansas State.

"A lot of eyes will be on him," Peterson said. We haven't had a lot of chances to watch him or get to know him. We saw what he did in the spring game, he threw for 202 yards and ran for over 100 yards and two more scores."

Oregon's Kelly had this to say about naming Mariota as his starter.

"Marcus earned and won the starting quarterback job," Kelly told Media after the decision. "He proved in 37 practice opportunities that he was our best option going into the Arkansas State game. We saw separation between him and Bennett, that's why he was named the starter."

Mariota was also excited about being named the starting quarterback for the Ducks.

"It's a blessing and a honor to be the starting quarterback at Oregon," Mariota said. "Now all my focus is on getting ready for Arkansas State. I plan on controlling what I can control. I have to go out and execute our offense."