MOBILE, Al. –** Perhaps you've heard that there's a quarterback prospect in this year's NFL Draft who once played under the tutelage of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Well, just such a player took the opportunity to impress scouts on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl as he showcased an impressive arm after being called into action as the third quarterback on the South's roster.
Of course, Marcus Mariota is not that player. While the reigning Heisman Trophy winner plots his next draft move, his former Oregon teammate Bryan Bennett was on hand after an impressive two seasons at Southeast Louisiana.
Prior to the 2012 season, Bennett and Mariota competed for Oregon's starting quarterback job. After Mariota won out, Bennett spent the season as Oregon's No. 2 before deciding to transfer following the 2012 season.
"That was something that I had to do for myself," Bennett said Wednesday to a throng of reporters following the South's practice. "I had a lot of friends and high school teammates I was playing with at Oregon. It was a great program. They were doing great things, so there were ups and downs. But really it just came down to what I needed to do to give myself the opportunity to continue to play quarterback."
At Southeast Louisiana, Bennett spent two seasons as a starting quarterback, earning Southland conference player of the year honors in 2013. Over his two seasons as a starter, Bennett combined to throw for 5,522 yards, 39 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while completing 55.7 percent of his passes. He also ran for 1,715 yards and 31 touchdowns.
But while Bennett played in relative obscurity, Mariota was on his way to the Downtown Athletic Club and National Championship games. Did Bennett harbor any jealousy?
"It was great to be able to compete with (Mariota), and to see him do well has been awesome," Bennett said. "He's a good guy and he definitely worked for it. Just to be able to get to compete there, and to be able to see us both continue to get an opportunity to play football is great."
Without any Oregon players at the Senior Bowl (thanks to their all-important game just a week ago), Bennett is the only player on hand to have played for Kelly. The money question, then, is whether Bennett is hoping for a reunion with the Eagles' head coach.
"Coach Kelly did a great job with us," Bennett said. "I learned a lot from him, and I got a really good opportunity to play under a coach like him."