By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly could hold a clinic by now called "How to Handle a Never-Ending String of Quarterback Injuries."
In the five games since Dennis Dixon's devastating knee injury against Arizona last November, Oregon has gone through four different quarterbacks -- and that does not even include the Ducks' expected starter this season, redshirt freshman Nate Costa, who suffered a season-ending knee injury before he could take his first snap.
"I'm at the point where [the trainers] tell me who's available and I go with it," said Kelly.
Oregon's latest medical mishap took place in last weekend's opener against Washington, when sophomore Justin Roper -- who had moved into the starting job following Costa's injury -- went out with a concussion in the second quarter. Kelly turned to junior college transfer Jeremiah Masoli, who, despite a limited grasp of the playbook, deftly guided the Ducks the rest of the way to a 44-10 victory. He went 9-of-17 for 126 yards and two touchdowns while running four times for 23 yards.
The fact that Masoli is even on Oregon's roster shows how much the events of the past year have affected the program. Despite returning both Roper (the MVP of last December's Sun Bowl win over USF) and Costa and having already signed two touted freshmen, Chris Harper and Darron Thomas, Kelly did not hesitate to add Masoli upon becoming aware of him last spring.
The athletic sophomore, who led City College of San Francisco to a juco national championship last season, was lightly recruited out of high school. Because he was qualified academically, he did not need to earn a junior college degree to enroll at Oregon. Once Kelly saw tape of Masoli, he offered a scholarship.
Because of his running ability, Masoli is already drawing the inevitable comparisons to Dixon. While many Oregon fans assume he's a better fit for the Ducks' spread-option offense than Roper, Kelly says it's not that simple.
"The best thing we look for in a quarterback is his decision making. It's a bonus if the guy making the decision is running a 4.5," said the Ducks' second-year coordinator. "There's enough in our offensive system at Oregon that we can fit it to whomever."
If cleared to play, Roper will start Saturday against Utah State -- but that doesn't mean Masoli won't play. Same for Harper, who also saw action against the Huskies. Oregon is planning to redshirt Thomas -- but you never know when that might change.
"We've learned to be careful what you wish for," said Kelly. "He's in uniform and ready to go if we need to."