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Oregon Football

Spring Preview: Quarterbacks

February 12, 2021
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With 2020 officially in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look ahead to the 2021 season. And where better to start than with the question of who will start at quarterback?

Sound familiar? The QB question was the biggest discussion point last year at this time, and it's likely to be that way again heading into spring ball.

On Friday, Tyler Shough announced he will transfer out of the program – a decision that shocked many. Now that he’s gone, and Anthony Brown appears primed take his place.

None of the other three scholarship quarterbacks have taken a snap at the college level. However, they’re all super-talented and have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we could see one of them rise up and challenge Brown

Let’s take a deeper look at the quarterback room.

Anthony Brown

The grad transfer from Boston College announced earlier this off-season that he’ll return for his “super senior” season. That decision alone would suggest Brown feels he’s in a good position to win the starting job.

Now, that’s no guarantee Brown will take the field against Fresno State in seven months' time. But he certainly holds the post position in the upcoming horse race.

Last season, Brown appeared in two games, completing 15 of his 23 attempts for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran 7 times for 40 yards and scored Oregon’s only 2 touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl.

We never got to see a complete game from Brown because he split time with Shough in those two postseason games. But there was a lot to like in his limited action.

The only time Oregon had any success on offense in the Fiesta Bowl was when Brown was on the field. He wasn’t perfect by any standard, but the offense functioned more smoothly under his leadership.

Now, Brown will have a full off-season to work with offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and to become more comfortable in the offense. It seems this is Brown’s job to lose.

Jay Butterfield

The 6-6 quarterback is one of Oregon's more intriguing players heading into spring ball.

The freshman from Brentwood (Calif.) didn’t see any game action last year, but I was able to watch him practice last spring – and he really impressed me. Butterfield has a natural throwing motion and can zip the ball all over the field.

Now, it’s one thing to do that in drills and an entirely different thing to be able to replicate that success in games. But Butterfield certainly showed he has the tools to do so.

The fifth-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class is the most traditional pocket passer at Oregon, and historically, Moorhead prefers more mobile guys. It will be interesting to see how Butterfield can adapt to Moorhead's offense – and vice versa.

It’s tough to say, based on our limited media access, exactly where Butterfield's development stands. But if he continues to learn the offense and improve as a player, he could find himself in the mix for significant playing time.

Robby Ashford

If you think Butterfield is a wild card in this game, then Ashford is the ultimate joker in the deck.

Ashford wasn’t yet with the team last spring when media members were allowed to observe practice, so we know very little about his performance. We do know that the Alabama native is a tremendous athlete with incredible physical tools who can make different throws, both on the move and in the pocket.

The biggest question with Ashford might be if has developed his decision-making to operate efficiently the college level. He made some incredible plays in high school, but inconsistency kept him from being a top-tier quarterback prospect.

There's also the question about Ashford's inclusion as an outfielder on the Oregon baseball team, and whether that participation could interfere with his progression in football.

Ashford could compete for this job, probably in 2022. But just like Butterfield, we’ll have a better sense of where he’s at once spring ball starts.

Ty Thompson

Oregon’s highest-rated quarterback commit ever arrived last month and is fully participating in the run-up to spring ball.

There’s a ton of buzz around Thompson, and deservedly so. Just turn on his tape and you’ll quickly realize the Arizonan is one of the most complete quarterbacks to come to Oregon in a long time.

The No. 4 pro-style QB for 2021 has a great arm and stacks great decision upon great decision. He also is athletic enough to evade pressure and extend plays – even gash a defense with his feet.

Some fans already are banging the drum for Thompson to be the starting quarterback, but people shouldn't get too far ahead of themselves. True frosh Justin Herbert became a starter by mid-season, but before him it had been a long, long time since any first-year player had started for Oregon.

Could Thompson be the exception to the rule? He would have to have an incredible spring to put himself in the mix. He has more than enough talent, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

However, Shough's departure opens the door for Thompson and the other freshmen. Mario Cristobal had promised a broad competition; will that still be the case given the vast chasm in experience between Brown and his challengers?

What we thought was going to be a two-man battle between Brown and Shough quickly changed with Shough entering the transfer portal. Now, will any of the three youngsters seriously push Brown?

Tags: Football, Oregon
 
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