|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Waller wants to be on fast track at Oregon

  • BEAVERTON — Travis Waller wasn't Oregon's first choice, and he's OK with that.
    • email print
  • BEAVERTON — Travis Waller wasn't Oregon's first choice, and he's OK with that.
    Waller wasn't oblivious to Oregon's pursuit of other quarterbacks for the 2015 recruiting class. He knows the Ducks crossed a few names off the list before landing on him, but he's eager for a chance to prove that Oregon ended up with the right player to begin life after Marcus Mariota.
    "Mostly, it's a great fit for me," said Waller, who attended The Opening and the Elite 11 quarterback camp this past week at Nike headquarters after making a verbal commitment to the Ducks. "Mariota is leaving after next year, so I have a chance to compete right away.
    "It's going to be a long journey. I'm going to have to really dial down in that playbook and really understand the offense, but I think I've got a good shot at starting as a freshman."
    Mariota's departure isn't written in stone, of course, but it would require something unforeseen for the Ducks' star quarterback to bypass the NFL draft again after doing so last spring.
    Assuming Mariota turns pro after his junior season, Oregon will be picking his successor from a group that, as of this moment, remains largely unproven.
    That's why it was crucial that the Ducks land a quarterback for 2015, and preferably one capable of competing right away. It also could explain why the Ducks targeted a handful of other players before turning their attention to Waller, who is regarded as more of a raw talent.
    "They aren't pushing the panic button by any means, but I think they were hoping for somebody a little bit more polished," said Justin Hopkins, who covers West Coast recruiting for 247Sports.
    "Travis is probably just a little bit farther out. He might be a year out from (being ready), but he's also probably got the most potential of any quarterback Oregon has signed since Marcus Mariota."
    The separation is small when evaluating the best of the best, and by almost any measure, Waller is ranked among the top quarterbacks in his class.
    Waller finished third in the Elite 11 quarterback competition, behind only Alabama commit Blake Barnett and Houston-bound Ben Hicks, and 247 rates him as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in his class behind Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray.
    Experience is the main thing working against Waller, who didn't start playing quarterback until midway through his sophomore season at Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif. Knowing that, it was easier for him to be patient while the Ducks courted other players.
    "I wish they did (offer sooner), but at the same time, I totally understand," Waller said. "Those guys were already on the map.
    "They already had their set guys after my sophomore year. People just heard my name (after the) third game of my junior season."
    That game, an upset of California powerhouse Long Beach Poly, is the one Waller says put him on the map. He rushed for nearly 200 yards, including one 84-yard touchdown run, and also completed 12 of 17 passes.
    Waller will focus on refining his throwing mechanics during his senior season, addressing one area of concern for college recruiters.
    "He has no problem acknowledging that his mechanics aren't where they need to be at this point," Hopkins said. "But what a lot of folks need to remember is that he's only been playing quarterback for about a year.
    "While there are things he needs to fix mechanically, he does so many other things well that could make him a very special quarterback at the college level."
    Finding quarterbacks to compete for the starting job in 2015 has been harder than one might expect, given Oregon's pedigree for prolific offense. Backups Jake Rodrigues and Damion Hobbs left the program this offseason, and Oregon saw a handful of top targets commit elsewhere in recent months.
    In the case of one recruit, Hopkins said, the player's parents expressed reservations about the pressure of filling Mariota's shoes. That's not a concern for Waller, who welcomes the comparison.
    "People were saying I'm like a little Mariota, in the building," Waller said, asked if he patterns his game after a particular quarterback. "I have the potential to be Mariota.
    "Really, I just look at role models — Cam Newton, Drew Brees. I look at their footwork and how they run the ball, how they construct their offense."
    With Waller joining incoming freshman Morgan Mahalak, the Ducks will have options in 2015, if not much experience. Mahalak was the more polished player at the same stage in his career, Hopkins said, but Waller's upside makes him a wild card.
    Oregon is in no hurry to contemplate life after Mariota, but when the time comes, Waller will have another shot to become the Ducks' first choice.
    "That will be an intriguing battle," Hopkins said.
Reader Reaction
      • calendar