Duck Offense Start Spring Practice on Tuesday

The three-time defending Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks begin the 15-practice spring workout on Tuesday, with only the annual spring game open to the public on April 28. The Ducks hope to find a replacement for departed quarterback Darron Thomas and will also introduce two additional newcomers to the team.

With Darron Thomas leaving for the NFL, the Ducks will give redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett, redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, senior Dustin Haines and freshman Jake Rodrigues plenty of snaps this spring. Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said last week that all four candidates have an opportunity to compete for the job even though no starter will be named until the week before the first game of the 2012 season against Arkansas State to be played on Sept. 1st, in Autzen Stadium.

Bennett is the most experienced of the group having started against Colorado last season when the Ducks beat the Buffaloes, 45-2. In that game, Bennett was 11-for-20, 156 yards and two touchdowns. Bennett also rushed for 69 yards on six carries including a long run of 43 yards. For the season, Bennett played in a total of eight games, going 25-for-46 in passing for 369 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions for an impressive 164.8 efficiency rating.

Mariota was suited up for all the games last season but was kept out of action in order to preserve his redshirt status. However, from the limited times the media and public was allowed to watch Mariota in practice, he displayed strong arm and breakaway speed in the open field.

Haines appeared in three games, but only had one passing attempt that went incomplete. Haines was also credited with two rushing attempts for seven yards.

Rodrigues was part of the 2012 recruiting class and has been enrolled since winter term. Rodrigues was a 4-star signal caller last season but his season was cut short with a broken leg suffered on November 20, 2011, and subsequently had surgery to repair the damage.

"They put in a plate and eight screws and a new invention called a tight rope; they had to drill a hole in between my fibula and tibia, so it'll heal straight," Rodrigues told Annabel Stephan of Scout.com in December.

The Ducks will be somewhat thin at running back because LaMichael James has gone on to the NFL and Tra Carson has left school. That leaves senior Kenjon Barner, who opted to stay in school rather than move on the NFL with James and De'Anthony Thomas as the only two scholarship athletes on roster as running backs.

Barner finished the year rushing for 939 net yards, scoring 11 touchdowns with a long run of 84 yards against Colorado. Barner also had 17 catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns including a 54-yard scoring reception in the 2012 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.

Thomas had a sensational year rushing for 595 yards, seven touchdowns including a record setting score in the Rose Bowl of 91 yards. Thomas also had a second rushing touchdown in that game that covered 64 yards. In the 2011 season Thomas also had an impact as a receiver grabbing 46 ball for 605 yards, scoring nine touchdowns with a long of 69 yards. Additionally, Thomas scored twice on kick returns with the longest for 96 yards against USC. The Oregon football program has not announced which walk on players have been invited back for spring practice though likely Ayele Forde (36 carries 176 yards, two touchdowns) will be on the roster.

The wide receiver corps will have several redshirt freshmen, including Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley added to the mix. Returning veterans include Josh Huff (31 catches, 430 yards, two TDs) Rahsaan Vaughn (14 catches, 184 yards, one TD), Daryle Hawkins (five catches, 102 yards, one TD), Justin Hoffman (10-for-133 yards), Will Murphy (3-for-37 yards), Eric Dungy (2-for-34 yards, one touchdown), Ben Butterfield (2-for-5 yards) and Keanon Lowe, who did not have a catch last year but saw action in eight games on special teams.

David Paulson graduated leaving Colt Lyerla as the sole veteran at tight end. Lyerla had seven catches for 147 yards and five touchdowns. While Christian French redshirted his freshman year there is some speculation if he will take the field this year as a tight end or be moved to the defensive side of the ball.

Curtis White's status is not yet officially known but it is speculated that he has retired from football for medical reasons. He is still enrolled at Oregon.

The Ducks do have a new face coming this this spring as Evan Baylis, part of the 2012 recruiting class has enrolled at the University.

The offensive line will be without senior Carson York who is recovering from off-season surgery.

With York sidelined doing conditioning, Oregon will look to veterans Horniss Grasu (14 starts), Nick Cody (13 starts), Ryan Clanton (12 games played) and Jake Fisher (13 games played) to lead the offensive linemen. Other veteran linemen include Karrington Armstrong (played in eight games), Everett Benyard (13 games), Trevor Fox (3 games), Mana Greig (eight games), Hamani Stevens (eight games). Redshirt freshmen are James Euscher, Tyler Johnstone, Jamal Prater and Andre Yruretagoyena. Walk on linemen have not yet been announced.

One additional incoming freshman is Arik Armstead, who was Scout's No. 1 offensive lineman prospect for 2012, but will play on the defensive side of the Duck. Armstead, has enrolled at Oregon and will begin practice on Tuesday.

Practice sessions will be closed to the public with the exception of the spring game on April 28th.

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