One of the most anticipated decisions from new Oregon St. head coach Gary Andersen and the Beavers' spring practice sessions is who will remain in the forefront of the quarterback competition. Andersen announced his decision today post practice, naming sophomore Luke Del Rio, freshman/early enrollee Seth Collins, and redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell as the 3 quarterbacks of the 7 on the roster who will split the reps going forward.
Andersen had originally thought about making the decision during the break between the first 2 weeks of spring practice and the last 3 weeks, during which finals week and spring break will occur.
But by the end of last week, Andersen had said that he felt needed to accelerate the decision.
"We'll move forward a little quicker than we thought initially," Andersen said after the offense lagged behind the defense in Saturday's 11 on 11 drills. "The top three kids will start to get more reps on Tuesday. We can't continually have seven quarterbacks go through the rotation and make any strides. We'll whittle that down, and you'll see it Tuesday at practice."
Del Rio, last year's backup to the graduated Sean Mannion, was sure to be a part of the competition, being the only one with any in-game experience, albeit very limited. Especially after his father Jack Del Rio was on hand last Saturday to make sure of it.
It was rather apparent that the other 2 would come from the trio of Collins, Mitchell, and fellow red-shirt freshman Marcus McMaryion.
One key decision is whether Collins would be a part of the competition, or would red-shirt in order to learn and grow. But his early enrollment and performances forced the issue, as its apparent Collins is one of the best athletes on the team, and one of the fastest, regardless of position or experience. His long passing needs work, and lots of it, but he has the required arm-strength, and its immediately apparent that he can do things few people on campus can.
That meant one spot for either Mitchell or McMaryion, and a case could be made for either.
McMaryion has the quickest release of any of the 7, as well as being the most prototypical "mobile" quarterback of the returnees, more in the mode of Collins. But while he showed flashes at times, there were also moments of hesitation visible in course of Saturday's action, and apparently that wasn't an isolated occurrence.
Mitchell also showed flashes that might offset an often slow release, and does have decent arm strength. The deciding factor may have been a few plays where he showed escapability and mobility that surpassed what we had seen last season in practice, and surprised many, to the point of being termed "sneaky" by several. His general athleticism seems to be improving in terms of effectiveness.
"Nick, Luke, and Seth are going to take the majority of the reps right now, and we felt we just had to move in that direction to allow the offense to progress," Andersen said. "It's a hard situation for coaches, and it's a hard situation for the young men involved. It's extremely difficult because they are all competitors, they're tough-minded kids, and all 7 want to be the starter. But the fact of the matter is we have to adjust the situations that are in front of us."
Andersen explained that he and the rest of the offensive coaches evaluated the film of the all of the QBs, and agrees with the conclusions of his offensive assistants on the choice of Del Rio, Mitchell and Collins to move forward with.
"I see what I see from a defensive standpoint, and those are the kids that have the [greatest] ability to hurt you with their legs, their mind and their arm," Andersen said. "We're still a work in progress on offense, but that's where we are today."
Mitchell's demonstrated creatively surprises probably was the decisive factor when contrasted with McMaryion's relative hesitation.
The players learned of the decisions late Monday, and Andersen has already uttered the "transfer" word with respect to the future of McMaryion, junior Brent VanderVeen, and redshirt sophomore Kyle Kempt, though there will be a need for depth, since running quarterbacks often become injured quarterbacks.
Saturday will feature the next opportunity to observe the progress of the offense, and the selected sub-set of quarterbacks, when the Beavers scrimmage before their 2 week break, starting at 11:30 in Reser Stadium if the predicted rainy weather isn't too bad.
The scrimmage is planned to be full-contact, with live hitting, including on quarterbacks, since scrambles and read-option action is a part of the system.