ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Oregon's Jeff Lockie has heard the question a million times.
"What's it like to be Marcus Mariota's backup?"
Lockie and Mariota are great friends in addition to teammates, so he sincerely doesn't mind.
"I tell you, it's a privilege," he says.
Lockie has no idea if he'll play on Monday when the Ducks face Ohio State for the national championship. He's appeared in nine games this season, mainly late after the high-flying Ducks built such a substantial lead that the decision was made to sit Mariota down.
Lockie, a 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore, has attempted just 27 passes this season, completing 21 for 207 yards and a touchdown. He had his longest outing in the season opener against South Dakota, when he spelled Mariota after the Ducks built a 41-13 lead. He tossed a 4-yard scoring pass to Pharaoh Brown to open the fourth quarter.
He's spent most of the time learning from the Heisman Trophy winner.
"He helps me learn on the field, off the field, how to manage game," Lockie said. "It's been a pretty awesome experience."
Mariota said it's been the other way around, mostly.
"He's a great friend of mine, somebody that I go to, whether it's from football or school or stuff like that," Mariota said. "He's been an incredible person for me, and for the most part I try my best to pass on what I've learned here, and hopefully make him successful."
Lockie is a sophomore out of Alamo, California, about 35 miles east of Oakland. He passed for 3,278 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Monte Vista High School and was named East Bay Athletic League MVP. He also rushed for seven scores.
After serving on the scout team his redshirt year at Oregon, Lockie competed for the role as Mariota's backup last season. In two seasons with the Ducks, he's thrown for just 264 total yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Such is life as the backup for the most decorated athlete in Oregon's history.
In addition to the Heisman, Mariota was named AP Player of the Year and the Pac-12's offensive player of the year, among a slew of other awards. He has set conference records for most touchdowns in a single season with 56. He has had 40 passing, 15 rushing and a touchdown reception. He has also set the conference mark for career touchdowns with 134.
Following the championship game on Monday, Mariota has until Thursday to decide if he's going to declare his eligibility for the NFL draft. It is widely expected he'll turn pro.
If he does, Mariota is expected to be among the top draft picks.
Lockie is the heir apparent at starting quarterback for the Ducks. Other hopefuls waiting in the wings include current redshirt Morgan Mahalak, Georgia Tech transfer Ty Griffin, recruit Travis Waller or perhaps someone else — and there are plenty of rumors swirling about that.
"We'll see what Marcus decides. I've seen a lot crazier things happen before," Lockie said. "Whatever he decides, and the opportunity's there, we'll have a pretty good competition and we'll just have to take it from there."
Lockie certainly knows his way around the Oregon hyperdrive offense. He wears a headset on the sidelines, tuned into what the coaches are talking about during the game. Mariota comes to Lockie on the sideline to ask him about what he saw on different plays, or what opposing defenses are doing.
"Jeff has a very bright future. He's incredibly smart. He understands this offense and has really for me helped me out on the sideline. He sees stuff that allows me to make better decisions out on the field," Mariota said. "He's done an awesome job picking up the offense, doing his best at learning it, and I think he has a bright future for sure."
Lockie is the first to say it, however, that he is no Marcus Mariota.
"Obviously we have different strengths and weaknesses on the field," he said. "I take the comparisons with a grain of salt — because obviously he has a lot of strengths. But we are different players. If the time ever comes, next year or two years from now, and I get a chance to play and he's not here, people will just have to know: Different quarterback. There's only one Marcus."
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