For almost a year, Oregon Ducks fans have been clamoring for an answer about who would be the quarterback in the class of 2017. Maxpreps National Sophomore of the Year Tate Martell showed early interest, but chose Texas A&M, and Marcus Mariota disciple Tua Tagovailoa quickly became a fan favorite for obvious reasons, but the coaching staff never offered and he now appears to be a USC lean.
Oregon passed on both of them in favor of quarterback Ryan Kelley, 247Sports' No. 3 pro-style junior quarterback, who was also the highest-rated gunslinger in the country left on the board. At least, he was.
On Thursday morning, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound signal-caller, out of Basha High School (Chandler, Arizona), rewarded the Ducks' singular focus in his skillset, choosing Oregon over fellow finalists Arizona State, Cal, Michigan State and UCLA at a ceremony at his school. Rated the No. 35 player in the county by ESPN, Kelley is the highest-rated quarterback commitment for the Ducks in the history of the site's rankings, which began in 2006.
The catalyst for that commitment was Kelley's official visit to Eugene earlier this season against Washington State, where the quarterback became enamored with the university. "Great visit, amazing coaching staff, phenomenal facilities," he wrote via text message. "All of the players seem like they really enjoy themselves up there. They have a great tradition up there." Shortly thereafter, Kelley said he was ready to make a decision out of a top five of Arizona State, Cal, Michigan State, Oregon and UCLA, although most saw it as a two-team race between the Ducks and Sun Devils.
That possibility became increasingly nerve-wracking for Oregon fans over the past week, as Arizona State caught fire on the recruiting trail, adding five-star wide receiver N'Keal Harry and U.S. Army All-American running back Chase Lucas. But in the end the opportunity to play for Oregon was too much for the in-state program to overcome. As a junior, Kelley was 228-of-361 (63.2 completion percentage) passing for 2,606 yards and 20 touchdowns with another 469 yards and four scores on the ground. Kelley is Oregon's second commitment in the class of 2017. He joins four-star defensive lineman Langi Tuifua.
By Charles Fischer
Vernon Adams on the move.
I believe Vernon Adams sustained a lower-body injury of some kind, which has now evidently healed along with his finger. An injury that none of us knew about would explain why he was so slow running for nearly two months, and why the coaches removed running options for the QB in the offensive game plan.
Having a legitimate option for a QB keep in plays such as the Inside Zone Read, the Outside Zone Read, and the Sweep Read changes how a defense will line up, and keeps it from focusing entirely in one direction.
The biggest impact of returning to the Zone Read?
When the Ducks read a defender, they are not blocking him, thus the blocking responsibilities shift over by one man to the play-side. Hence they get an extra blocker on play-side.
This makes all the difference in the world for Oregon. For example, instead of a safety being free to jam up the edge, the Ducks will now have hat-on-hat blocking on the Outside Zone Read.
Oregon’s running game will explode from here on out, as seen in the Cal game.
Royce Freeman has been our backbone this season, the true workhorse of the offense. However, in the Rose Bowl last year, I saw a tired, burnt out running back who had no moves, wiggle or burst, and that was after a month off for rest.
Fast forward to this season, and Freeman has clearly lost some burst and wiggle since the first game this year. The emergence of three other running backs who have shown good skills in running our basic plays gives me hope that we can ration his carries to stretch his abilities further this season.
Tony Brooks-James against Cal.
Tony Brooks-James was a running back that I had given up hope on. In the early games he played in this fall, it appeared he was simply a north-south runner, that although he was fast, could not make anyone miss in the open field.
We heard he had an injury some games back, and against Cal we saw the RB we had heard stories about as a scout team phenom in 2014.
He was making Golden Bears miss, he was breaking tackles and he slashed his way for a huge 14.4 yards-per-carry average. Like Adams, I think there was an undisclosed injury with Tony that must have occurred in fall camp.
It has been a very pleasant surprise seeing TBJ and VA run the football at their full potential!
The defense in the Cal game made enormous improvements to become “adequate,” which is more than enough when our offense is clicking. While I would prefer having a near-perfect game on offense going into the game with Stanford, last Saturday was the best the offense has looked this season. It can be said that much of the game resembled the “Oregon Offense” we have come to know and love.
They have a full stable of backs, the full spectrum of plays available and a quarterback who is very skilled in throwing the deep ball from the pocket. Our receivers must love Adams … they know if they get open, he will find them unlike few QBs they have had at Oregon.
In short, the Ducks are in the best spot possible for a show-down with the Cardinal. I’m sure the coaches and players will enjoy the challenge and the next step in the progression of the 2015 Ducks.