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Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas declares for NFL draft

January 14, 2012 | 10:25 pm

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The season doesn’t start for eight months, but the decision by Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas to enter the NFL draft would appear to help USC in its bid to end the Ducks’ three-year reign as conference champion.

Thomas passed for 2,761 yards and 33 touchdowns as a junior last season and led the Ducks to the Pac-12 Conference title and a victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

“I came to this decision on behalf of myself and my family,” Thomas said in a statement on Oregon’s website. “I have a dream of playing in the NFL, and I’m going to pursue those dreams.”

Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said he would support Thomas’ decision.

“As in all cases, we educate our players with the information we feel will be beneficial to them throughout the process, but ultimately, the decision is left up to the players,” Kelly said in a statement. “I will always support Darron in his decision and want to thank him for everything he has done for this program. He obviously has played a major role in elevating Oregon football to new heights, and I wish him well in the future.”

Thomas’ departure comes after the early exit to the NFL by running back LaMichael James.

Bryan Bennett, who will be a third-year sophomore, is the most experienced quarterback vying to replace Thomas. The former Encino Crespi High standout played extensively against Arizona State after Thomas suffered a leg injury, started the next game against Colorado and also played the second half against Washington State.

In eight games last season, Bennett passed for 369 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 200 yards.

-- Gary Klein

Photo: Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas talks to reporters during a media day before the Rose Bowl. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

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