Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota is back in full control of the offense the coaches used the spring game to hone Mariota's leadership skills in being more vocal with his teammates. Mariota, the laid-back personality had opportunities created in the spring game to encourage teammates to "relax, and enjoy" the game.
"He was clean and did a nice job," said Helfrich of Mariota in the spring contest. "During the second quarter there was a stagnate play and he made sure to get after everyone in the huddle. Just shows he is progressing, taking the next step in his maturity."
Football-wise, Mariota showed a strong, accurate arm hitting 13-of-15 for 169 yards two touchdowns in a special offense vs. defense scrimmage. Mariota's performance in the spring appeared to be nothing short of him adding to his sensational freshman season in which he threw 32 touchdowns and averaged 205.0 yards passing per game, which is especially impressive considering the Duck starters including Mariota were done by halftime in nearly all the regular season games with the notable exception of the Stanford game, the season's only loss. About the only thing Mariota did not do in the spring game was break off a big run, however he did finish the 2012 season as Oregon's second leading rusher with 752 carries on 106 carries (7.1 ypc) scoring five times and had a long of 86 yards.
Mariota's back-ups, redshirt freshmen Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie had good outings in their first real public appearance in the spring and should be solid enough replacements for Mariota should he get dinged up in 2013. Damion Hobbs is a true freshman quarterback and most likely will redshirt. The Ducks list senior quarterback Dustin Haines, who has seen time on special teams as a holder.
The running game with Mariota included should still be potent however superstar, do-everything back De'Anthony Thomas stood on the sidelines in the April game. Thomas was nursing an injury that also kept him out of some track action in the spring but considering he scored 11 touchdowns rushing, five receiving, one punt return for score and one electrifying 94-yard kickoff return in the Fiesta Bowl, makes Thomas a known commodity. Whether Thomas will be used similarly as the departed Kenjon Barner (1,767 yards on 278 carries) remains to be seen. Thomas most likely will be the designated starting running back in 2013 but in actuality, he'll be used as he always has, as a running back, slot and wide receiver and return specialist. Thomas had 701 yards on 92 carries (7.6 ypc) and with a long run for a touchdown of 59 yards. The Ducks want to get the ball into Thomas' hands whenever possible.
Most feel that sophomore Byron Marshall will be the true workhorse at running back and his spring performance would support that notion as he had six carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. Even as the third-string running back last season, Marshall managed to get 87 carries for 447 yards and four TDs.
Oregon has two incoming freshmen, Thomas Tyner, a 5-star recruit that had one game over 600 yards as an Aloha High School senior and Kani Benoit from Thunderbird HS in Phoenix. Oregon will have five scholarship players on the roster at running back (Thomas, Marshall, Tyner, Benoit and former walk-on Ayele Forde) so there is some questions about experience should Thomas or Marshall go down with an injury. Walk-ons include senior Jordan Thompson, junior Kenny Bassett and redshirt freshman Lane Roseberry.
The offensive line returns three starters including the 2012 Pac-12 first team center Hroniss Grasu and freshman All-American Tyler Johnstone. Junior Jake Fisher is the other returner while Everett Benyard, Andre Yruretagoyena (or Andre Y. for short), Karrington Armstrong and Hamani Stevens likely will battle it out for the other two starter jobs. Sophomores James Euscher and Jamal Prater will get playing time. Senior Mana Greig should also get a shot to take his starting job back after recovering from his 2012 season ending injury. True freshman Cameron Hunt is the most likely of the new comers to see playing time, but if the depth is too great he will red shirt along with fellow true freshmen Doug Brenner, Elijah George, Jake Pisarcik and Evan Voeller. Senior walk-on Brian Teague has been moved back and forth between the offensive and defensive line so fall camp should define where he'll see his final season's position. Three other walk-ons are listed on the current 2013 roster including junior Brandon Thomas, sophomore Matt Pierson and redshirt freshman Matt McFadden.
The receivers will feature senior Josh Huff, sophomore Bralon Addison, senior Daryle Hawkins and junior Keanon Lowe as the receiver rotation with Thomas also as an obvious target. Junior Colt Lyerla could be a major force this season. Last year Lyerla caught 25 passes, six for touchdown but was also used in the backfield as a running back, scoring a touchdown.
Other receivers on the roster include former walk-on Chad Delaney (known more for his kick and punt return skills) junior Eric Dungy, sophomores B.J. Kelley, Dwayne Stanford, redshirt freshman Chance Allen and true freshmen Devon Allen and Darren Carrington. Walk-ons are juniors Jeff Bedbury, Aaron Lee and Blake Stanton.
One of the more impressive positions in terms of depth of talent is tight end. Backing up Lyerla are sophomores Pharaoh Brown, T.J. Daniel and Koa Ka'ai, plus redshirt freshman Evan Baylis and true freshman John Mundt.
Defensively, Coach Nick Aliotti was pleased with the spring performance calling his defensive line and backfield deep and talented but reserved judgment on the linebacker corps calling it "green". The Ducks have talented depth but the departed Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay were the team's leading tacklers last season Junior Tyson Coleman seemed set to take one of the starting vacated positions but was wearing a half cast during the spring game. Coleman was back running by mid-June so his status will come under a lot of scrutiny in fall camp. Senior linebacker Boseko Lokombo could emerge as the best player on the field this fall. Juniors Rodney Hardrick, Derrick Malone and redshirt sophomores Rahim Cassell and Joe Walker are all talented players that will mature quickly making the Ducks linebacker corps solid. True freshmen Danny Mattingly and Torrodney Prevot were highly recruited athletes in the 2013 recruiting class.
Junior corner back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu seems destined to be the defense's leader based on his selection as first team All-Pac-12. Senior Avery Patterson should be fully recovered from his 2012 season-ending injury and along with fellow senior Brian Jackson will provide a solid pair at safety while junior Terrance Mitchell will make it a full house of returning starters in the defensive backfield from last year's squad. Juniors Erick Dargan and Troy Hill were solid contributors over the last two seasons and both have started. Junior Dior Mathis and senior Ben Butterfield (just recently awarded a scholarship) and sophomore Isaac Dixon have plenty of game experience while redshirt freshmen Oshay Dunmore, Eric Amoako, Stephen Amoako are inexperienced.
Redshirt freshman Reggie Daniels is an exciting prospect that could make a big impact.
Freshman Chris Seisay brings size and speed to the secondary.
The defensive line will be tall and stout. Seniors Ricky Havili-Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi anchor the defensive line with junior Tony Washington and Taylor Hart seeing time on the ends. Sophomores DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Alex Balducci saw significant time as freshmen and will be major contributors next season.
Sophomores defensive ends Christian French and Sam Kamp saw playing time in 2012. Senior defensive tackle/end Jared Ebert is potentially an NFL player but missed nearly all of last season due to injury. Redshirt freshmen Stetzon Bair and Cody Carriger a tall athletes who should the field this year. Defensive line walk-ons include senior Ryan Hagen, juniors David Kafovalu and Ryan McCandless.
Kelly took one assistant with him to the NFL, defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro but the rest of the staff remained in place. Scott Frost was promoted to Offensive Coordinator after Helfrich was named Head Coach. Matt Lubick came in as the receivers coach while Ron Aiken in now in charge of the defensive line.
The veterans of Kelly's staff, Running Game Coordinator and offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, running backs coach Gary Campbell, secondary coach John Neal, tight ends/Special Teams Coordinator Tom Osborne, linebackers coach/Recruiting Coordinator Don Pellum are still at Oregon.
Long time strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe is a living legend on the Oregon campus and his experience in keeping the Ducks in tip top shape has proven invaluable.