Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks are a month away from jumping ball. It wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that Spring hasn’t resolved a single battle for position on the list, and it shouldn’t either.
But Spring is giving the coaching staff an understanding of how players are picking up the playbook, gelling with each other and dealing with the grind of being an Oregon college football player.
The fight for QB1 in Eugene, arguably the positional battle for the Ducks with the most chatter and speculation nationwide, is far from resolved, to put it bluntly. Many were readily available Bo Nix key on offense due to his starting experience and familiarity with Kenny Dillingham, but improving on both Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield Figure, making the decision anything but easy.
Oregon QB Bo Nix
Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix launches a pass during the annual spring game.
For most critics and Ducks fans, the only glimpse of the April 23 quarterback battle was during the spring game. There was a lot to celebrate and a lot to improve on, that was the opinion Lanning and Dillingham shared after the game.
“We have to get better,” Dillingham said of his quarterbacks. “I think we risked the ball too often.”
“You love the explosives,” Lanning said. “I thought they did a good job of pushing the ball down the field but you can’t endanger the ball.”
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Despite the inconsistent performance in the spring game, which totaled 611 passing yards against four interceptions, each quarterback made great strides over the course of 15 practice sessions.
“I love where we are. I think we have a lot of talent in this room and I think they’ve gotten better,” said Dillingham. “We all talk about the growth they’ve made just thinking about the game and the growth they’ve made in passport protection.”
There is no substitute for experience, and the experience of learning a new offense has been challenging but also rewarding for the Ducks quarterbacks.
Oregon QB Ty Thompson
Ty Thompson attempts a down pass in Oregon’s spring game.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a quarterback overall,” Thompson said. “Learning this offense was a growing step for me.”
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“It’s just huge,” Nix said of how this spring has helped him. “I think being with the guys and learning how they play and getting more and more anti-defence. Obviously our defense is very diverse so we see a lot of different things, that was really cool.”
“There’s always room for improvement,” Butterfield said of his continued growth. “I’m definitely trying to get a little bit bigger, stronger and faster. I feel like I trust myself enough to make all the throws. Of course I want to achieve this timing with all recipients.”
Every quarterback has a lot of room for improvement, Dillingham said after last spring practice. He wants to see Thompson’s eyes and feet in harmony, take Nix, which gives him the defense, and get Butterfield the ball out of his hand faster.
Oregon QB Jay Butterfield
jay Butterfield is looking for his shot at the starting job after registering early for the Class of 2020.
At the end of the day, the quarterback contest is just that—a contest. Each signal caller tries to do what is best for themselves in order to earn the starting job, but Nix, Thompson and Butterfield have all emphasized the teamwork mentality that has been installed since early spring.
Nix’s seasoned leadership and the bright minds of Thompson and Butterfield, mixed with a cast of strong offense coaches and promising talent should be a recipe for success.
As for the starter, Dillingham made it clear that the Ducks have not set a date when they would like to designate a starter. for context, Anthony Brown was only named the starting quarterback the week before the season opener against Fresno State last year.
Obviously there is a brand new coaching team and system. But this quarterback fight is different because the experience gap between the quarterback candidates isn’t nearly as great, especially since Thompson and Butterfield each have a full season of experience under their belt.
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With a date against the reigning national champions coming up in 99 days, it will be fascinating to see if Lanning and co. draw on their experience like the previous staff, or just focus on what they have learned since arriving in Eugene have seen.
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