Nothing beats a good, old-fashioned quarterback competition, and the Oregon Ducks have an unexpected one on their hands.
Former Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown has transferred to the University of Oregon and will be immediately eligible to play in 2020 as a graduate student. When the news broke, many didn’t think much of it, as they expected a potential graduate transfer to be little more than an insurance policy for assumed starter Tyler Shough, whom Mario Cristobal recently declared QB1.
But let’s clear something up; Brown didn’t come to Oregon to ride the bench.
Brown has the tools to do some serious damage in newly hired offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s offense. His talent, matched with his experience as a multi-year Power 5 starter, gives him a legitimate chance to walk away with the starting quarterback job when all is said and done.
Brown and Moorhead: A Match Made in Heaven?
Moorhead’s hiring as offensive coordinator was at least slightly eyebrow raising for one reason: Moorhead and Cristobal have completely different viewpoints when it comes to running the quarterback. Cristobal made a concerted effort to limit the contact that Justin Herbert took, essentially eliminating designed quarterback runs for the vast majority of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Moorhead, on the other hand, hasn’t been shy about his desire to establish the quarterback as a running threat. He said the following in an interview with OregonLive:
“We’re planning to run the quarterback and make him a viable threat because when he does that’s an extra number in the run game for the defense to defend.”
Although Moorhead and Cristobal will likely meet in the middle on this polarizing subject, it’s safe to assume the quarterback running game will at least be somewhat featured under Moorhead. That’s what makes Brown’s acquisition so intriguing.
Although not a burner, Brown is a very capable running threat and a good overall athlete for the position. Brown’s legs have always been a big part of his game. As a high school senior, he excelled as a runner, rushing for over 600 yards and nine touchdowns. That rushing production didn’t translate to Boston College because the pro-style scheme he played in rarely took advantage of his athleticism. But even on broken plays that resulted in him scrambling to make something out of nothing, Brown teased his potential (note the one-minute mark of the video below).
Brown’s laser-timed 4.84-second 40-yard dash as a recruit isn’t particularly impressive, but he certainly seems to have improved upon that number since entering a collegiate strength and conditioning program. A quick look at his highlight tape shows that he’s plenty fast enough to be a threat on the ground. His reported 4.7-second 40-yard dash time seems like a better representation of his athleticism.
What’s more, at 6’2”, 220 lbs., Brown has the size and strength to absorb the body blows that will come when he runs up the middle. Quarterbacks with speed and elusiveness are dangerous, but so too are ones that are powerful and bruising. Moorhead has had experience with both, and Brown fits perfectly into the latter category.
In contrast, Shough simply isn’t a dynamic athlete, and his skill-set doesn’t seem to mesh with Moorhead’s philosophy. Shough isn’t as immobile as Tom Brady, but unlike Brown, his laser-timed 4.88-second 40-yard dash matches his play speed. Shough barely eclipsed 100 rushing yards in each of his seasons as a starter in high school, and nothing that he has shown in his brief appearances at Oregon so far suggests that he’s anything more than an average improviser. And at a lankier 6’5”, 220 lbs., he’s not built to take repeated hits.
Although Moorhead would undoubtedly tailor his offensive system to fit Shough’s strengths if he wins the starting job, he’s not a natural fit for his quarterback-run-heavy scheme like Brown is. Passing the ball is still the most important part of the position, so Brown’s rushing ability alone doesn’t make him the favorite to win the starting job. But athleticism, especially in a scheme like Moorhead’s, is becoming increasingly valuable for quarterbacks in today’s game, and Brown’s significant edge in this category gives him a good chance to supplant Shough.
When Potential Meets Production
Brown isn’t only a legitimate candidate to win the starting quarterback job because of his skill set. He’s a candidate because he has translated his potential into production.
Brown wasn’t a Heisman candidate or an All-American (he did play for bottom-dwelling Boston College, after all), but he quickly progressed from freshman starter to budding star during his three years with the Eagles. His numbers weren’t anything special early on, but as he gained experience, he began to improve, entering the 2019 season as one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC.
Had he not gotten injured, there’s a good chance that Brown would have earned second team all-conference honors in 2019. He led a Boston College offense that was surprisingly productive at the start of the season, and he was on pace to put up career-high numbers in completion percentage, passing yards and touchdown-to-interception ratio. Unfortunately, his second non-contact knee injury in three years ended his junior season, and the offense subsequently nosedived.
His success wasn’t the product of the talent around him, either. Outside of star running back A.J. Dillon, Boston College was completely devoid of playmakers, and yet Brown led a quietly explosive offense before his injury in 2019. With far more talent at his disposal in Eugene, and considering his career trajectory to this point, it’s very likely that Brown would improve upon his already solid numbers in 2020 if given the chance, perhaps significantly so.
The bottom line is, the coaching staff knows what it’s getting out of Brown. With three years of improving production at a Power 5 school — despite a weak supporting cast — Brown guarantees, at the very least, that the quarterback position won’t be a liability for the Ducks if he starts. The same can’t be said about Shough, who has yet to take anything beyond a handful of meaningful collegiate snaps.
Shough appears to have the superior arm talent and likely has the higher ceiling overall, but it’s still a risk banking on his potential over Brown’s production. Taking this risk could very well be the right move, but it’s a risk nonetheless. Brown’s floor is that of a quality Power 5 starter. Shough’s is to be determined.
Contrary to popular belief, the Ducks have a quarterback battle, and the two candidates are both highly qualified and talented options. Shough’s gifted arm talent and accuracy have had fans eagerly anticipating his debut as a starter for quite some time. He definitely has the look of a future collegiate star.
But Brown is no slouch, either. Formerly one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC, Brown didn’t transfer to Oregon to spend his senior season as a backup. He’s a perfect fit for Moorhead’s offense, and he has proven that he can play at a high level with less-than-adequate talent.
Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job, the Ducks’ offense will be in good hands in 2020. Just don’t be surprised if it’s in Brown’s hands rather than Shough’s.
Morgantown, West VirginiaTop Photo From Twitter
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