For the past few years everyone around the Oregon football program has grown accustomed to the familiar center-quarterback combo of Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu. The chemistry and trust that Mariota had for Grasu and Grasu had for Mariota undoubtedly played a big part in the Ducks’ success over the past few seasons.
But with both gone to the NFL, the Ducks will begin their transition to two brand new starters at both positions.
The silver lining of this transition for the Ducks is that both players who ended fall camp atop the depth chart at QB and center are graduate transfers. While quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (Eastern Washington) and center Matt Hegarty (Notre Dame) are both new to Oregon and to one another, they’re not new to the college game, which is one level of transition the two get to skip over.
But gaining chemistry and experience with one another is a deeper level of chemistry, and one that could have a big impact on the season.
Is there a perfect catalyst for Adams and Hegarty to gain the kind of chemistry that Mariota and Grasu had as a quarterback-center combo?
No. Just snaps. Lots and lots of snaps.
And so far, that’s what Adams and Hegarty have done in practice. Offensive line coach Steve Greatwood estimates that they run 100 plays per practice while also giving centers and quarterbacks their own snap practices.
On Friday, when the depth chart was released and the Ducks started their Eastern Washington game week, the two began working together exclusively, trying to make up for lost time.
“The snaps should hopefully just become [routine] after all the practice,” Greatwood said. “Just the actual mechanics, that’s become [routine] by now. As far as them trusting each other, Vernon trusting Matt as far as his calls and protections and vice versa, that just has to be continued to be worked through. ... That’s always going to be a work in progress.”
But even though Greatwood knew it would -- and will -- be a work in progress for the two, he has been pleasantly surprised with both players as they’ve worked to pick up the Ducks’ offense.
Greatwood said that he has been impressed with how Hegarty -- who started the final 10 games of his Notre Dame career at center -- has already become a leader on the offensive line despite the fact that he has only been with the group for a short period of time.
Greatwood also said that Adams, who has been with the offense for an even shorter period of time, has also been quick to gain comfort within the offense.
“I’ve been amazed at how quickly he has picked up the mechanics of what we do, just our general operating procedures,” Greatwood said of Adams. “Is he on the same level as Marcus? No. But he has a great supporting cast around him that can help him through that, too.”
No, Adams is not Mariota and Hegarty is not Grasu. They'll only have a fraction of the time together to prepare and play that those two before them did. But Adams and Hegarty will spend the next week trying to gain chemistry with one another in the same way the Ducks play -- uptempo, uptempo, uptempo.