Take 2: Which new QB has most success?

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
12:00
PM ET
There are five new quarterbacks in the Pac-12 this season: Taylor Kelly at Arizona State, Jordan Webb at Colorado, Marcus Mariota at Oregon, Josh Nunes at Stanford and Brett Hundley at UCLA.

Our question this week: Which of them will have the most success this season?

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Chris Williams/Icon SMIUCLA quarterback Brett Hundley will be tested often this season.
Kevin Gemmell: Poor, poor Ted. I know your brain is mush right now. You've been grinding away so hard on the best-worst scenarios that you've got nothing left for a Take 2. Obviously, the easy choice here is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

I'll tell you what, buddy, since I'm going first this week, I'm going to leave the softball for you and take a different approach. No, no. You don't need to thank me now. Just buy me a Cuban sandwich when we're in Miami for the USC-Oregon national championship game and we'll call it even.

When you're measuring the success of a new quarterback, you have to first look at what's the definition of success. Because I think the measuring stick is going to be a lot different for Mariota than, let's say, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.

If Hundley wins eight games and takes his team to a mid-level bowl game, I'd call that a pretty successful debut season. If Mariota wins eight games and takes his team to a mid-level bowl game, Oregon would probably call 2012 a massive failure of a season. Teams that start the year ranked in the top five don't want to end up in San Diego in December -- no disrespect to this beautiful city I'm blessed to call home.

The Bruins, however, I think would be awfully pleased with an appearance in the Holiday Bowl.

Consider what Hundley -- who looked pretty solid in his collegiate debut last night -- is up against: a new head coach, who until last night had never coached a college game (that's not a knock on Jim Mora, just a fact), a new offensive coordinator with an offense that is a complete 180 from what the Bruins were running previously, and while I think UCLA has some playmakers, Hundley doesn't have the weapons around him that Mariota does. Also, most would agree at this point that Oregon has the superior offensive line.

But I think Hundley overcomes all of that to lead his team to seven or eight wins and a pretty decent bowl game. The reason I think that -- aside from the fact that Hundley is a very talented player -- is because of UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and the way he transforms quarterbacks. His system is proven, even if Hundley is not, and it's going to allow Hundley to do what he does best: sling the ball around to a lot of different receivers and make plays with his feet when it's needed.

This was the same offense that produced 33 points per game last year when Mazzone was with Arizona State and dropped 43 on the USC Trojans; the same offense that averaged 32 points per game in 2010 that went for more than 40 points four times. Some might remember the 55 they scored on the Bruins that year.

Because of all the immediate factors working against Hundley, people are going to allow him a little more wiggle room to develop than they would Mariota.

And I think you can say the same thing for Josh Nunes at Stanford, Taylor Kelly at ASU or even an experienced newcomer like Jordan Webb at Colorado. They have the luxury of working their way into success, rather than instant success being demanded.

Huh, maybe Mariota isn't such a slam dunk after all. I guess the Cuban sandwiches are on me.

Ted Miller: Thanks for making things easy on me, Kevin.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Steve Conner/Icon SMIBetween a stellar supporting cast and a proven coach, the stage is set for Marcus Mariota at Oregon.
I've been reading the tea leaves, and Marcus Mariota is going to be a revelation.

Now it's perfectly fair for someone to point out that I've only see Mariota in action once -- his much-ballyhooed performance in the 2012 spring game. So my -- and anyone else's -- sample size for extrapolating success is extremely limited.

Still, there are three things that make him the pick for immediate success.

First, he beat out Bryan Bennett, a guy who has long been touted and who played very well in relief of an injured Darron Thomas last year. If Mariota is better than Bennett, then he's got to be pretty darn good.

Second, his supporting cast will make him look good. He's got plenty of offensive weapons surrounding him as well as a top-notch offensive line. He doesn't have to throw it 40 yards to get a 40 yard completion. He merely needs to dump it to Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas or Josh Huff and let them do the legwork. The stat sheet doesn't make a distinction.

Third, who's the coach of this team? That's right, Chip Kelly. What's his track record with quarterbacks at Oregon? Let's review.

Oregon fans hated Dennis Dixon -- oh, yes you did! -- until Kelly arrived in 2007. Dixon went from being an infuriating underachiever who threw a lot of interceptions to the nation's top Heisman Trophy candidate until he blew out his knee.

Then, after Nate Costa blew out his knee before the 2008 season, Kelly was left with, well, just about nobody. Recall that Jeremiah Masoli was a summer addition to the roster whom no one had heard of. He led the Ducks to a Holiday Bowl victory and then to the first of three conference titles in 2009.

And when Masoli got the boot, Kelly surprised many when he tapped Thomas over Costa. Thomas then led the Ducks to the national title game and a Rose Bowl victory.

Think how good the Ducks' QB play has been since Kelly arrived in Eugene. Now, how many of these former Ducks quarterbacks had NFL success? It's obvious that Kelly finds ways to make his QB successful.

And guess what: Mariota is the most physically talented signal-caller Kelly has coached. He could become the first Kelly QB to become a high NFL draft pick and then a starter.

Sure, the bar has been set high. Anything less than another BCS bowl appearance would disappoint most Oregon fans. But, as things look at present, the odds are fairly good the Ducks will receive a fourth consecutive BCS bowl berth.

Finally, there is always this: Mariota is a redshirt freshman. He's, inevitably, going to have some boneheaded moments. But his youth also means the Ducks -- and Kelly -- will have him for at least three more seasons. (If he opted to leave for the NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore year, well, he'd probably be pretty darn good).

That's the consolation if he's merely pretty good this year: He's got plenty of time to become outstanding.

But the guess here is Mariota puts up plenty of numbers as a dual-threat this season. And leaves us with plenty of "Wow!" moments.

Ted Miller | email

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