Scrambled or Fried? Oregon Not Eggs-actly Sure About Its Next QB
"We're evaluating everything. I evaluate how they eat their eggs in the morning," Kelly said Wednesday.
And who's winning?
"Right now, it's Darron (Thomas) because he goes over-easy instead of scrambled," Kelly said. "Scrambled falls off the fork."
On a sparkling day in Eugene, a couple hundred Ducks fans showed up to see the Pac-10 favorites hold their third practice of the season and the first in shoulder pads. You've got to think that a good number of them were standing along the sidelines to see how the battle between senior Nate Costa and the sophomore Thomas (right) is shaping up.
It's a pretty important one for the Ducks, who have championship expectations and loads of returning talent on both sides of the ball. What they don't have is an experienced, proven quarterback.
A quarterback competition can quickly degenerate into a gigantic toteboard of mistakes and miscues, a measured failure rather than success.
"Oh, that was a bad pass."
"Wow, interception there."
"Man, he didn't get rid of the ball fast enough."
And Kelly is no doubt keeping score himself, but he's looking at the good as well as the bad and he's getting both thus far from Costa and Thomas.
"They are both up and down. Sometimes they make good plays, sometimes they make bad plays," Kelly said. "It's a long process. This evaluation isn't going to be made on the Wednesday on the third practice of the year."
Costa was strong early in the day and got a little shaky at the end, hitting a receiver in the legs and throwing an interception late in the session. See what we mean about the toteboard? Thomas also threw an interception during 11-on-11 drills.
The tale of the tape looks like this:
• Costa (right) is the fifth-year senior who was headed for the starting job two years ago as the heir to Dennis Dixon when a major knee injury -- the third of his career -- a week before the season opener handed the reins to Jeremiah Masoli. While Costa healed, Masoli broke school records and led the team to the Rose Bowl before an unhappy ending that's been well-documented by now. Costa is viewed as the more accurate passer, with a slight edge in experience (one career start) and knowledge of the system. He's the guy who had the job for a fleeting time.
• Thomas, the redshirt sophomore who sat out last season, is quicker and a better runner, reminiscent of Dixon. He's shown promise -- throwing for 200 yards as a freshmen in one quarter against Boise State in 2008 -- and he's the long-view choice, given that he has three years of eligibility left.
Between the two of them, they've attempted just 71 passes. In other words, there's a whole lot of unknown here. Hence Kelly's need to evaluate everything up to, and apparently including, breakfast.
If Costa and Thomas aren't always going to do the right things, they are certainly going to say the right things.
Costa, playing with a large brace on his left knee, said he's confident that he has the decision-making ability necessary to lead the team.
"Every once in a while I make a mistake that I shouldn't make and that's something I'm going to learn from," Costa said. "When we make mistakes, we want to make sure we only make them once."
Thomas said he just wants to improve every day.
"I did all right today, I've got to get better," Thomas said. "Get better tomorrow. Working on things out here, in the room, looking at film."
Thomas said he is feeling a little pressure. Kelly said he won't name the starter until the week before the season opener, after he's had an entire camp's worth of work to make his assessment.
"We've both got to be ready," Thomas said. "Everybody knows in Oregon that, as a quarterback, you've got to be ready to play."
Two weeks ago at Pac-10 media day, Kelly talked about his quarterback position as a question mark.
Costa said he knows which questions he has to answer.
"The question of whether I'm healthy enough to last the whole season, to take the contact that a quarterback in this offense is going to take, because I've had injury problems before," Costa said. "But I'm very confident in my knee and in my ability to go an entire season.
"The other question is whether I can make the right decisions and I feel like that's a question I will answer."