Should Oregon Jump-Cut QB Recruiting for 2017?


Oregon has gone from rags-to-riches in quarterback recruiting in just one year, and it has created an interesting quandary for us as fans to ponder. Should Oregon forget about a quarterback recruit for 2017? I don’t have the answers here, and it was one of the interesting little items that sit back in my mind – wondering what the Duck coaching staff will do. I welcome your thoughts …

Travis Jonsen

Gary Breedlove

Travis Jonsen

Why would I ask that? Let’s take a look at the stack of quality quarterbacks at Oregon for a moment. Beginning with Travis Jonsen, we have a redshirt freshman who has shown a high upside from the very beginning of the recruiting process.

At The Opening in Beaverton going into his senior year of high school – he was not highly rated due to being labeled as “raw,” but by the end of the event he had climbed into the top five in the nation for dual-threat QBs. He is very coachable and soaked up the instruction, improving before everyone’s eyes. He was poised for a great fall to learn the Oregon offense when an injury took away his practice time, hence we really didn’t know what to expect with this recent Spring Football.

The surprise is not that Jonsen continued to improve but that he is pushing the senior, Dakota Prukop, for the starter’s job as a redshirt freshman. recruiting guru, Mark Flores, wants to wager with me that Travis is going to be the starter against Cal-Davis, but my own observations from the open practice and the Spring Game confirm what we have heard from coaches.

Prukop has a narrow lead, but that could change come this fall. Jonsen is someone who could have helped us win some games last fall where it not for his injury, and I have one Duck-buddy who has declared that “Dakota better not get hurt, as he may not get his starting position back.”

Justin Herbert

OregonLive Video

Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert will be joining the team for the fall as a freshman and is the quarterback we know the least about – for now. He is a commanding presence at 6’6 and, as one of the best baseball pitchers in the state (Sheldon High in Eugene), has an arm that can throw the NFL deep-out patterns already. The film on him is fun to watch because he is comfortable with the Zone-Read, and runs a 4.60 forty to make big plays happen.

The best description I came up for him? He is an AJ Feeley with wheels.” As you recall – AJ was another Oregon high schooler (Ontario) who played in the NFL for quite awhile. AJ was a statue, but could really throw the ball.

Our offense would remain primarily the same with Herbert, but I would be amused with the passing tweaks coach Helfrich would add. The Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, was telling me about Justin long before anyone was writing about him and declared that the Ducks should offer him. The GOC  is not right every time, but damn – I wish I had his track record as it is pretty impressive on these types of predictions/projections.

Wilson has the RG III look going...

Gary Breedlove

Wilson has the RG III look going…

We were at the open practice the week before the Spring Game and my Duck-Buddy, Gageac, whispered to me about the poise and presence of a particular quarterback. As I watched I realized that my friend was right, because some guys just have the “it” factor – as Joey Harrington did.

It is in their total body posture, their presence, commands attention from others and I was struck at how this stood out from the other quarterbacks practicing. The man with presence was none other than true freshman Terry Wilson, and I never would have predicted that in advance!

I recall how he is an honor student and a talent that a coach at a national all-star game felt would “be a star” at Oregon. His rocket arm became apparent right away, but it is his running style that so fascinates me. I asked the GOC …“watch the film … doesn’t Wilson run like a running back?” I said that because Terry does not look like the typical QB scrambling when he takes off; he tucks it in and now is trying to juke people like he is a running back … and it works! This young Turk is not ready yet, but he very well could be Oregon’s next Heisman Trophy candidate before his career at Oregon is finished.  I love the looks of this young man – as a player and as a leader.

Colson Yankoff

From Video

Colson Yankoff

Quite a few of us were surprised with the early 2018 verbal commitment of four-star QB Colson Yankoff to the Ducks. Knowing the vetting by Helfrich, Lubick, and now Yost applies – you know he is a good passer and a kind of ‘fast’ that fits his 6’3 frame. Coming from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, he has garnered offers but had not yet hit the radar of other big programs yet. My colleague and friend, Dale Newton, wrote a superb article about him on his site, The Duck Stops Here, and I highly recommend it to all. Bottom line is that our QB pipeline looks great.

We have three redshirt or true freshmen quarterbacks available the fall of 2016, and have another QB coming to the Ducks in fall of 2018, so the question remains about whether our Webfoots should take yet another quarterback at LOI day this next February of 2017?

Oregon has the attention of Tua Tagovailoa who attends the same St. Louis high school as did St. Marcus in Honolulu, and is an Alabama commit. He was once thought of as an Oregon “shoo-in,” but did not get the attention from Oregon’s coaching staff for undisclosed reasons. (Leave it!) He is very fast and has had Mariota-escue type stats, hence a highly talented dual-threat quarterback.

Like you, I am a fan, not an expert and thus am curious as to what fellow fans of our beloved Ducks think about this wonderful dilemma? On one hand – you can never have too many quarterbacks, (Google 1988, 1991,1993, 2007, or 2015 Oregon football seasons) yet if we sign another for 2017 – we would have five quarterbacks on hand? You know at least one (or more) would transfer out and it would mess up their football careers. Yet if you have a chance at a player like Tua … do you really not accept him from that b*st*rd Nick Saban?

I could make a compelling case both ways, and I’ll bet there have been some spirited discussions at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex about this very subject.

Now – What do you think? Give me more than bluster – give your fellow fans your reasons why and give us all an opportunity to learn from one another.

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
College Football Analyst for
Eugene, Oregon

The top photo of Terry Wilson contributed by Gary Breedlove

 My friends - we are in a massive site conversion process to highlight and feature more than 240 analyses over the last five years, and we will ultimately return to video analysis, as well.  In the meantime – I WILL be writing an article about every ten days, so DO check in and see some of the dandies I’ve got brewing in me. If you haven’t, DO sign up for the newsletter so that when we begin the new format we have you on board with the new articles and analysis. THANKS.  (FishDuck)

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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Platypus

    Iv’e watched all of the hilites of Oregon’s QB’s and Herbert impresses me most. Everything about him screams NFL. 6’6″, 220, 4.6, Rocket arm, Good mechanics and Good character kid. The QB from Hawaii might find it tough to break into the line up. Even now i feel one of the QB’s could transfer. It’s a nice problem to have …i guess.

    • FishDuck

      Agreed! And that is with the group we have coming now. I have to admit though….when I began ticking off the number of years that we faltered due to QB problems–I was surprised to come up with five over the last 28 years. Thanks Platypus.

  • MauiDuckNW

    The Oregon coaches would be wise to keep their antennas finely tuned towards the possibility of signing a ‘once in a generation type of QB’ for the 2017 recruiting cycle. Sometimes lightning does strike twice. It could be that Tua is indeed very special but, even the most talented coaches and recruiters are just making educated guesses. It’s about making calculated risks while still holding the values and creed of your program.
    I do think it’s important to honor the commitment of the current QBs on the roster although, it would be foolish to turn down a truly special talent ala Mariota if one exists and wants to join the Oregon program. If I had to guess I would say Dakota puts in the work and earns the starting job. Travis Jonsen will get substantial reps, maybe more than just backup playtime. Travis seems to be a complete QB with a very high ceiling. Come 2017-2018 season if all eligible QBs remain and none are signed this cycle, I expect it to be a very interesting 3 way race between Herbert, Wilson and Jonsen. Even if Jonsen establishes himself as a solid backup this season no one in their right mind can count out Wilson or Herbert stepping up. We are indeed in a interesting situation, things are looking very promising. 4 QBs who can start is not too many but, maybe just the right number. I can see us going without another QB in this cycle and being just fine. We could bring one in and that could help further boost recruiting this cycle but at what cost? In 2018 Yancoff is looking very promising. I can see coaches recruiting one more QB for 2018 depending on how things pan out this season and if the coaches know of any QBs interested in transferring. If Tua really wants to play for Oregon I say let him come but, he has to know even though he probably has more raw talent at his stage of development than any of our current QBs, he would still have to learn the playbook, stay healthy and beat out a handful of very very talented QBs that will be a solid step a head of him. The safe move for Tua is to stay with Bama and Saban. Flipping to Oregon based on a real love for the program and a wish to follow his Oregon ‘dream’ would take heart and guts. That brings us to this upcoming season.. What we are able to accomplish this year in the PAC 12 and beyond will define how the program moves forward in recruiting. I fully expect Oregon to surprise many across the nation. # 1 If we are solid at QB this season which I expect us to be, and we will at least win the conference. I’m not worried about the defense, it will at the least be ‘solid’ and best case scenario Hoke will have an aggressive, dictatating, shutdown group. That will take time to grow but, towards the end of the season we should start to see our defense of the future taking shape. # 2 It’s our offensive line. The O-line needs to be super solid and healthy. If this happens our team will be elite and able to score on even the most disciplined defenses. # 3 We need our special teams play to be explosive and consistent. Let’s spread out the kick/punt returns to 2-4 of our speed specialists. Any of the following: Lovette, Brooks-James, Amadi, Benoit, Leiato II and others could join Nelson and help share that duty. (Check out the highlight tapes for Amadi, Lovette and Leiato). Also we need to start giving more reps to our backup punter Maimone. It may seem overly simplistic and it is, if we solve QB, O-line and have a well rounded and explosive specials teams then the sky is the limit for our Oregon Ducks.

    • Maitai–waiting to see how things go this season and consider bringing in another QB for 2018 is not an option I thought of, and I like it.

      I like you offering your opinion as you bring good nuggets for us to consider like the aforementioned, but you may wish to consider making your work easier to read by breaking your paragraphs more often. That block above could have had the same content, but broken into five smaller paragraphs and it is just easier reading for fellow fans, yet it is the same material.

      Just a thought and thanks.

      • MauiDuckNW

        Thanks, I’m happy to share my thoughts. I appreciate the feedback on editing. This is the first time I’ve ever commented on a sports blog : )

        • FishDuck

          My mistake and apologies. Maitai is a great poster and follower of the site, hence easy to mess that up. Since I love so many beaches on Maui–I certainly welcome you. (Nipili was awesome years ago)

      • MauiDuckNW

        BTW, this is not Maitai. I used to live in Eugene for about 20 years and most recently I lived on Maui for 5 years but we just moved back to Eugene a couple weeks ago. It’s very surreal and awesome to be back in Oregon full time!

  • Pat Mchugh

    I think it’d be absolutely silly not to pursue at least one high end QB for the 2017 recruiting class. QB is the most important position on the field, at least for us – look at last season: synergistic center play granted, that feels like an uncontroversial claim – so there’s no sense taking risks. I’ll lay it out a case for going after excellent 2017 QB prospects in four arguments below.

    Argument 1: It would not be shocking to see one of the three youngsters transfer in the next two years. (And there’s absolutely no judgment there; tons of talent, only one starting spot). If that happened, we’d be just one injury away from being incredibly thin at the position, with or without the addition of Yankoff. Speaking of which…

    Argument 2: In the past 2 years, at Oregon and across the nation, we’ve seen dramatic instability in QB verbal commitments. Yankoff seems like a good kid who’s excited to join the program, but he’s young, he’ll continue to be recruited, and there’s a long time between now and then. I feel like my confidence that he’s still in the fold on signing day 2018 is no higher that 65%. (Again, absolutely no judgment of him included in that projection.) Given that, as an aside to this conversation, in addition to recruiting a high profile 2017 candidate, we should maintain relationships with other 2018 QBs, instead of abruptly dropping contact…

    Argument 3: Given the uncertainty of HS success translating to the next level, there’s never a reason not to have extra options. I’m excited about both Wilson and Herbert, but when we landed both Lockie and Rodrigues a few years back, I felt pretty great and would never have anticipated the need to look at the transfer pool two years in a row while they were slated to be on campus.

    Argument 4: Returning to the opening point about the general importance of the QB position to our success, it seems difficult not to sign off on pursuing interested, high profile QBs almost independent of the existing pool of talent. While a certain amount of short-term depth means that we don’t absolutely need to have a name penciled in next to QB on the 2017 class list and need not lower standards to bring a body to campus, there’s never a reason not to pursue a kid like Tua who appears to have star potential. We historically do a good job of facilitating real competitions for the position – the more dynamic competitors the better.

    • FishDuck

      That is a damn good reply Pat, and it is hard to disagree with something so well thought out and written. Keep coming back and offer your thoughts ANYTIME.

      A couple of fellow fans like you have offered items I had not thought of, hence why I appreciate the feedback. Good stuff.

  • BigBallzChip

    My 2 cents.
    Having too many very good QBs is a good problem to have!
    1. Look at *uckeyes when they lost their starting QB they had TJ Barrett come in a light people up, and once he went down against Michigan here comes 12 gauge who buckshot us out of the air. Unless you are Bama, good QB play is essential.

    2. Another case was the 2013 season where we were killed by the Furd & the Wildcats. Before the Furd game we played UCLA where I believe St. Marcus had a MCL strain. My observation is that if we would have had a comparable backup say B.Bennett didn’t transfer we could have played him instead of St. Marcus and would have had a better chance at beating both teams. Your chances of making it to the NCG goes up exponentially with a backup starter. Injuries are part of the game you have to consider that you will more than likely not make it with our starter through an entire season, so you have to bring your backup QBs into that equation.

    3. Aside from the 2014 season where I believe we got very lucky with a much needed bye week after the WSU game. If we did not have that week I believe the O-line would not have been ready for the next game and possible injuries were very likely to St. Marcus. Keep in mind that he took the most sacks against WSU in that game versus any other team. I think it was a crazy number like 7 or 12 just off the top of my head.

    4. After #3 I bring you this that kind of backs up the previous statement. In 2010 we had the battle between D. Thomas & N.Costa coming off an injury. I recall any Arizona game can’t remember which on that D.Thomas wasn’t doing very well almost seemed kind of hurt, but without him knowing he was or something I still can’t put my finger on it. However, I remember Chip made the adjustment of going to N.Costa at halftime and it was over just like that. Too bad N.Costa got hurt later on in the season, but I think the more the better.

    5. Final Point, this is pretty $hitty observation, but I have noticed teams such as Bama, Buckeyes, Texas, USC so forth will take as much of the talent they possibly can even if they have a difficult time getting them in they will try to keep them. The reasoning is if you soak up most of the talent the other teams. won’t just end up with tier II talent but mostly tier III or IIII. Remember this is all a business so anything that can be done will be done no matter if it is legal or not so long as you don’t get caught. Case look at Troy Pa. that played in Oregon in HS. He chose USC over our in state schools, but did he go to USC with a football schollie to start with noooooo. It was a baseball schollie and later once they cut some kid they gave him a football scholly. Part of the game the way I see it.

    • BigBallz….that is great stuff. Observations #2,3,and 4 are new to the discussion and although they can be rolled into #1, the actual example serves us well. You are quite right in that if we’d had a “1a” QB–we would have been much further along in several seasons.

      For some of us old-timers the whole subject goes back to 1988…when Oregon is 6-1 and on a roll when Musgrave takes on a LB and loses. We then went on to lose that game and the rest that season due to lack of depth at QB.

      I don’t doubt the need….just how many is enough?

      But you cannot chance it when that one position will make or break you. Got-it.

      Thanks for taking the time to write–all of you !


  • duckusucker

    We know Prukop can play at a high FCS level, as did Vernon— and Prukop is faster (probably not as elusive, though, because outside of Johnny Football, no one has been so for many-a-year). So he may be a one-year guy. Jonsen? We don’t know yet because only game time answers game time questions. Lockie and Bennett should have made that point clear (and Alie, to some extent).
    I noticed the freakish athleticism of Terry W at the spring game, little of him that was shown. He jumped out to me; a whip for an arm and an agility and quickness a level above Pru or Jon. The only drawback would be his inability to progress w/in the system, a la Mahalak, but seeing as he was an honor’s student, that shouldn’t be a factor.
    So, we may be set this year w/out Wilson, but next year I think he’ll be under center. We’ll need a back up, of course, unless we wish to repeat this past season’s debacle when V A went down.
    So, yeah, we need a QB or two. No rap on Jonsen, but the kid’s shown nothin’ yet, unlike the post-HS years of Prukop.