EUGENE, Ore. – Darron Thomas will be No. 11 Oregon's starting quarterback for the opener against New Mexico, taking over the Ducks after the dismissal of Jeremiah Masoli.
Thomas has been competing for the job against senior Nate Costa throughout fall camp. While Costa is more of a traditional passer, Thomas is more of a threat on the ground, much like Masoli.
Thomas, a 6-3, 212-pound sophomore, played in five games as a true freshman in 2008, completing 16 of 33 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
Called on when Oregon was hit by a slew of injuries, Thomas came close, but just missed on leading the Ducks to a come-from-behind victory at home against Boise State that season. The Broncos won 37-32.
He redshirted the 2009 season.
"I feel like I'm ready to go," Thomas said when Oregon opened camp. "I hope it's my time. I've been out here two years and gotten comfortable with the offense and I'm just building confidence."
Masoli, now a walk-on at Mississippi, was projected to be a possible Heisman Trophy candidate before his fall from grace at Oregon.
Masoli pleaded guilty to charges connected to the theft of two laptops and a guitar from a campus fraternity house in January.
Coach Chip Kelly suspended him for the upcoming season. But then Masoli was stopped a few weeks later for a traffic violation and marijuana was found in the car — prompting Kelly to kick him off the team.
Going into fall camp, Kelly said the role of the quarterback this season would be to distribute the ball to prolific running back LaMichael James, receiver Jeff Maehl and others. But the quarterback spot has historically been key in Kelly's offenses, with Masoli and Dennis Dixon before him proving the point.
Oregon held a scrimmage on Thursday before the coaches went to make their decision. Thomas completed 14 of 23 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns during the closed scrimmage, while Costa was 17-of-37 for 138 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Kelly announced his selection in a brief news release on Friday afternoon. He was not available for comment.
Costa, a senior who has been with the Ducks for five years, has had three knee surgeries — and only one start — in that span.
Costa echoed Kelly's sentiment that Oregon's supporting cast would lift whoever was selected as starter.
"If you look at this team on paper, offensively and defensively, we're stacked. It's a great team and we have a lot of seniors and a lot of returners and a lot of talent across the board. For a quarterback, this is an ideal situation. Whoever ends up going in and being the starter isn't going to be the most experienced guy, but they'll have a lot of experience around them and that means a lot," she said.
The Ducks host the Lobos at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 4.