Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Stars in Eugene Now that the NCAA Committee on Infractions has finally finished their case with the Oregon Ducks football program and leveled penalties against the program and former Head Coach Chip Kelly that did not include a bowl ban, the Ducks are gearing up for what could be a miraculous season. Not that they weren’t doing so already, it’s just that a weight has been lifted and a clear destination has been set for the 2013 Ducks: the BCS National Championship. And while many teams would consider that a lofty goal, Oregon football is more than ready to have the NCAA off its back and hit the field in full force. Obviously, with football being one of the ultimate team sports, the Ducks will need to rely on their entire squad to get them to their second BCS National Championship in program history. With that said, there are a few players on Oregon’s roster that will need to live up to the hype surrounding them and have great, individual seasons as well. Namely, De’Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota. Entering the 2012 college football season there was a little uncertainty surrounding the Oregon football program. Aside from the always-present NCAA investigation, the Ducks would also be without a true starting quarterback and took until the first week of fall preparation to announce Mariota as the starter over the now-transferred Bryan Bennett. Though Thomas still looked to be a proven commodity at skill positions all along the offense, many wondered if the change in quarterback would be the downfall of the 2012 Ducks. Almost a year after people began to speculate about that team, we know that Super Mariota played one of the best seasons at the quarterback position in Oregon football history and looks poised to be even better in 2013. Thomas and Mariota will look to lead the Ducks to glory (Photo: AP/Ted S. Warren) Thomas had quite the season as well, though Kenjon Barner garnered more carries at the running back position. Used in every way possible last year, Thomas still looked in more than prime form; returning kicks, punts, lining up as a receiver, etc. The definition of an explosive player with breakaway speed, Thomas will be entering his third year with the Ducks and look to potentially have his best season yet. Two standout players who will help decide just how good this Oregon football team can be in 2013, Mariota and Thomas will also likely be competing for some of the nation’s top college football awards come the end of the year. Not trying to get to far of ourselves (unfortunately we sometimes have to with over a month until the season kicks off), both players also look to be early Heisman candidates and favorites. Let’s break down who has the better odds of taking home the coveted trophy. The Black Momba As mentioned previously, De’Anthony Thomas is probably the most versatile athlete in college football. Able to excel at any position except quarterback and along the offensive line on the Oregon offense, Thomas creates nightmares for defenses and their coordinators as he moves so quickly and easily in a limited amount of space. In 2013 we should see the offense get the ball to him even more, as there are quite a few younger guys on the Ducks that have to prove themselves before becoming significant contributors. That being said, Byron Marshall looks to be the incumbent starter at running back despite limited carries last season. He has shown a knack for running the ball up the middle while demonstrating quality speed and strength that will be extremely valuable for Oregon in 2013. Look for him to take quite a few carries away from Thomas, somewhat limiting the production of the third-year standout. Super Mariota Mariota was nearly perfect in 2012 for a player that had never played a live snap in college football. Demonstrating the poise of a senior, he guided the Ducks to a 12-1 record and a No. 2 finish in the polls. What’s really remarkable with Mariota’s stats in 2012 is the fact that, in quite a few games, he played limited snaps because of how easily Oregon was able to dominate their opponents. Had he played most quarters of every game, his numbers would have been easily comparable to Johnny Manziel‘s, or even better. This all points to the fact that Mariota has some lofty expectations on his shoulders for 2013 but looks the player and individual more than ready to do it. Looking at the two players, their roles on the offense, and how much they will command the offense, I’ll give the upper hand in the Heisman race to Mariota. While Thomas will still receive plenty of accolades and attention from the national and local media (and deservedly so), the way Mariota will captain the offense and compile all his statistics while leading Oregon to what could be a BCS National Championship spells a Heisman front-runner. Let’s just hope I didn’t jinx anything. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE DUCKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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