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MailTribune.com
  • Friendly rivalry for Oregon understudy role

    Rodrigues, Lockie should see time for Ducks in opener against Nicholls State
  • Strike the pose.
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  • Strike the pose.
    For Oregon's backup quarterbacks that will likely be standing on the sideline watching potential Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota executing the Ducks' potent offense during the Pac-12 race.
    However, if all goes as expected on the scoreboard early and often in the Aug. 31 opener against Nicholls State, fans should get a good look at Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie throughout the second half at Autzen Stadium.
    The redshirt freshmen are the two leading candidates to be the man behind the man this season.
    "I really like how Jake and Lockie have been playing. They've been running the ball well when they get the chance," senior strong safety Brian Jackson said. "They look like they're ready to play. They're learning about their reads and making a lot smarter choices than when they first got here."
    Mariota took full advantage of his redshirt season before putting together Tecmo Bowl-like statistics during the 2012 campaign, including 38 touchdowns and a 68.5 completion percentage.
    Since arriving on campus as part of the same recruiting class, Rodrigues and Lockie have spent most of their time behind the scenes together. This is the definition of a friendly rivalry.
    "We're going to compete with each other and we're also going to have fun with it," Rodrigues said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. He's a great friend of mine, and it will always be that way."
    Added Lockie: "Most people think if you're competing with that guy, you probably don't get along. We're close to each other and we get along great. It's probably something most people don't expect, but it's actually a huge relief."
    Rodrigues has had to overcome a broken ankle and fibula during his career. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound import from Rocklin, Calif., said he gained a lot of confidence after throwing a couple of touchdowns during the spring game.
    Lockie, a 6-2 signal caller from Danville, Calif., was also locked in during the April showcase at Autzen Stadium, completing 22 of 28 attempts for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
    "To say that you're ready to go when you first get here would probably be crazy," Lockie said. "When you first step out there, you're going a lot faster than you think. You can watch this offense all you want, but when you're in it, all of a sudden things go a lot faster.
    "I think for me the difference between this fall camp and last fall camp is huge. I joke around with guys saying practice is a lot more fun when you know what you're doing. It's definitely a lot easier now."
    Mariota, who still has three seasons of eligibility remaining, is not going to be seriously challenged by any of the other five quarterbacks on the roster for meaningful snaps. Which means it's conceivable that Rodrigues and Lockie are actually competing for the 2016 starting job.
    There is still a sense of urgency to be the quarterback on the depth chart who is officially only one snap away from leading a team with national title talent.
    "When you come in here, you always try to plan in your head, 'OK, This guy's going to stay here until ...' But before I even got on campus, Darren (Thomas) left and everything was going crazy. And then Brian (Bennett) stayed and then left," Lockie said. "So I think to sit here and try to predict that Marcus might leave in one year, two years, three years, it's impossible because you don't know. I don't really worry about predicting the future because, as we all know, it's pretty unpredictable."
    Right now, the Ducks know they have one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Mariota, a quiet superstar during his dazzling debut season, is emerging as a more vocal leader of young men and coming off an impressive offseason workout regimen.
    "I think Marcus has gotten better. I think he's bigger and faster than he was last year," said offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who will be dialing up the Ducks' play-calling this season. "I think his grasp of the offense is even better. We're going to try to let him be a playmaker this year and do some things. Anytime we have the ball in his hands, I think good things are going to happen."
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