Just a few weeks ago, a list of potential Heisman Trophy candidates from the Pac-10 would have included both Jahvid Best of California and Jeremiah Masoli of Oregon. The two will face off Saturday in Autzen Stadium at 12:30 p.m., but only one has played up to preseason expectations to this point. Best enters Saturday’s matchup having established himself as one of the favorites nationally for the Heisman, while Masoli has some wondering if he’s even the best quarterback on his team.
If there was a question about where Oregon coaches stand on that last point, it was resoundingly answered Monday. Two days after going 4-of-16 in the Ducks’ win over Utah, Masoli took every rep with the first-string offense in practice. Afterward, UO coach Chip Kelly chose Masoli to break the team huddle. “I don’t think his confidence is waning at all,” UO quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “And I know our belief in him isn’t waning at all.” That said, the staff went about Monday trying to correct some of the mistakes that plagued Masoli and the offense against the Utes. After fumbling twice Saturday, Masoli was asked to carry the football tight to his chest, and to both focus better on the snap and use two hands to catch it. Helfrich said he continues to work to correct ongoing mechanical issues with Masoli, namely his tendency to overstride and to drop his throwing elbow, both of which affect his accuracy.
In practice Monday, Masoli completed 50-of-64 passes; of his 14 incompletions, at least five were dropped, two were broken up on outstanding defensive plays and one was thrown away. “Today was better,” Helfrich said. “Today was a step in the right direction, for sure.” Masoli said he and Oregon’s receivers are committed to fixing the passing offense, and he showed as much during and after practice.