Out With the Old, in With the New: Is Cale Millen the Ducks’ Next Big QB?

Zeke Lerner-Wood Recruiting 21 Comments

West Coast football runs strong in the Millen family. Former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen played for the University of Washington, even leading the Huskies to a victory at the 1985 Orange Bowl before continuing his career professionally. Millen’s second son Clay Millen recently committed to Arizona. And Cale Millen, Hugh’s eldest son, signed with the Ducks in December of 2018. Clearly Cale has the best decision-making skills in the family! 

Cale Millen is a pro-style quarterback like his father. Millen attended Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, WA where he lettered for three years, graduating with 104 touchdown passes against only 19 interceptions. ESPN ranked Millen the No. 3 overall player in Washington.

Millen chose Oregon over other competitive programs such as Arizona State, Washington, and UCLA. He also decommitted from Northwestern before joining the Ducks. You can read our analyst’s initial impression of Millen here.


Millen shortly after a game at Mt. Si High School

Despite his Dad’s alma mater, Millen has had his eye on Oregon for a few years. He cites his longtime love for the Ducks in an article written by Ryan Thorburn from Duck Sports

“I wasn’t really hot on the Huskies ever,” Millen said. “I played the NCAA Football games and I’d actually play as Oregon. And if my dad was coming down in the basement, I’d always turn the TV off real quick because I didn’t want him to see me playing Oregon.”

Weighing 211 pounds and standing at 6’3″, Millen has a great physical build for a quarterback. He already has a year under his belt working with collegiate-level nutritionists and workout regimens, too, so he’s physically prepared to take the field. Millen controls the field in his high school tapes, floating through pockets and past defenders, and quickly dishing off passes to zigging and zagging receivers. His footwork is superb as well, defined by quick, steady and firm steps to create space.

Millen’s decision making also stands out. The time he takes to look up, read the field, identify space, make a decision and create is ridiculously fast, a sure sign of understanding how the game flows really well — perhaps a result of growing up in a football family.

The largest weaknesses in Millen’s game is his range. Millen really thrives in short to medium distances, lasering passes straight into the hands of receivers with minimal time on the ball, but on the longer passes he sometimes struggles. With a little more physical development, he could become more comfortable with those further ranges and be a more complete player. 

One of the biggest factors concerning Millen’s 2019 playing time was Justin Herbert’s decision to return for one more season. This resulted in Tyler Shough securing the competitive second-string spot, leaving Millen’s status as a redshirt somewhat cemented for the season. In addition, Millen was unfortunately injured in late October with a shoulder injury. 


Millen “throwing his O” with Mario Cristobal and Marcus Arroyo.

This year, the Ducks have a lot of options for the quarterback position. Shough is favored to man the helm, but Millen’s shot at the second-string spot isn’t clear cut. Newly enrolled 4-star recruits Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford are both bringing a lot of excitement to the table as well. It will surely be a tense competition on the field for playing time.

It’s a bit nerve-wracking to be jumping into a new season with four relatively untested quarterbacks, but it’s refreshing to know that the roster is stocked with variability and options, and hopefully the lack of a clear starter for the position creates healthy competition between the players. 

I think Millen would fit with the Duck’s play style really well. He reacts quickly, and is able to get those short to mid-ranged passes off tightly and accurately. He has a year with the program under his belt, which does give him a slight edge up on Ashford and Butterfield when it comes to playing time.

No matter what the roster looks like when the dust settles, Millen has a lot to offer for the team, and will continue to grow on and off the field. What will the future for Oregon’s quarterbacks look like?

Zeke Lerner-Wood
Alameda, CA
Top photo from Video

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Cale has a younger brother, Clay that signed with Arizona. Now if Clay gets to actually play in college games at Arizona and Cale sits on the bench for his college career at Oregon, then tell me again who made the wiser decision ??

The QB barn at Oregon is full and getting bigger each year. And Cale is not #1 and has a lot of competition.


Other reasons for Millen to stay. Given the uncertainties, I have to believe that Ashford has to be weighing his option to pursue a baseball career. Anthony Brown is a one year player. Granted that Ty Thompson is likely to stick with his commitment and he is really very highly rated. But given all that is up in the air about college football right now – jumping to any other program is a crap shoot.

David Marsh

After quickly looking through the comments I noticed no one is talking about Anthony Brown… Then to shamelessly plug my own article from yesterday (go read it if you haven’t) we do have a grad transfer quarterback in all the competition this year.

I would LOVE to see any quarterback Oregon has recruited emerge as the starter. Right now Shough and Brown are the two to beat and I am all for Mullen to beat them both out but with his injury last year he may need another year of full practice to break ahead of the rest.

With the addition of Brown this year I think the competition in the quarterback room is going to be something fierce. I also think as fans we find “the guy” we want it to be because of the recruitment rankings they may come in with… But we are always happy if we get a quality signal caller. We are fickle that way…

Also quality backups are super important… The backup quarterback spot is the most important position not on the field.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

As a self-described Shameless Beggar, (You have to be in order to have an All-Volunteer website) I approve your shameless plug because it is a great article for all to read!


I remember the year the Ducks went through 5 or 6 quarterbacks due to injuries, so my feeling is there can never be too many!


I think Cale should transfer. We took in 2, 4 year, QB’s for 2020 and we have one of the top QBs in the country for 2021.

The reality of this program with the increases in talent level every year is that if you weren’t in the two deep already, you’re better off transferring, because you’re likely never going to see the field. The only exception would be high ceiling 3 star needing a lot of development, but with Cale being filled out physically and son of a high level QB, he does not fit that description.

At some point when the talent level stabilizes, it will be a better situation for all recruits to spend a few years developing before getting your chance, much like Alabama.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

My own rules for the site do not allow me to write what I am truly thinking, so I will phrase my response to this; I believe you are being premature and harsh in your suggestion that he should transfer. Why?

In 2007…we were truly down to our fourth quarterback, and while it is rare–you must be four deep at the most important position (By a mile) on the team.

Second…we do not know who can play. Helfrich recruited two 4-Star quarterbacks and two 3-Star quarterbacks, and we had the bad luck on having none of them who could perform for a variety of reasons, hence the transfer quarterbacks in 2015 and 2016. We, and the coaches, do not know yet if Millen and the newbies can play and won’t until practice, and actually seeing them in a game.

In 1987 and 1988….we had tons of talented quarterbacks on the roster, and yet the one with the least amount of talent (Bill Musgrave) became the starter. This is because quarterbacking is more than talent, as it is judgment; when to throw, how hard, to which receiver and all the micro-decisions made that determine a great QB versus a so-so one.

Millen might be that smart QB who makes plays and helps us win in a better overall way than the other QBs. We just don’t know yet.

Now, if Millen was a QB who had been on the roster for two years, and had gone through four fall and spring camps while being in games briefly and we can see that the starter and other QBs are better–then I would agree with you.

But due to his injury–we and the coaches have not seen what he can do, and we need four QBs!


You make a good point in that our backup QB’s (#2,3,4) need some real game experience in order to help them perform and get better and of course be ready when/if the time comes. Hard to do if the HC doesn’t do so when the opportunity presents itself.


Absolutely. I understand the frustration there must be in a talented QB, standing on the sidelines. But, if the team is winning, and the QB is playing well. He needs to channel that angst in to actively observing game play & film study, go full on in practice. Doing all this will erode the malaise. And of course there is the case of Matt Cassel, hardly got on the field at USC, behind Carson Palmer & Matt Leinart but he stuck it out, ended up getting drafted and played 12 years in the NFL.

Completely agree with Charles on this one. What we need is some good old competition, Mano a Mano. When the dust settles we will see who comes out on top at the qb position. I think it was 2008 when we got down to our 4th string qb, who rose to the occasion.

We also had Darren Thomas, in 2008 as a freshman, who put up some good statistics that and showed he had what it took to take over a couple years later. Back in the day qb’s had to wait to take their turn. Even Marcus redshirted and didn’t just come in and take over.

Jon Sousa

In the last National Championship Game that the Ducks played in, the were beat by the third string QB starting in his third game… ever. Who knew??? Not the fans. He was good. He was GREAT. But he sat on the bench waiting his turn.

Sometimes your turn comes when you are a junior, or even a senior. Sometimes it comes when you are a true freshman just because the four guys in front of you all get hurt. It only takes one snap for a QB to go down. There are 80 or so every single game on offense.

Several years ago, I think it was Roper (#4 or 5 QB at the time) finished out a game and was going to have to start the following week because everyone ahead of him was down. During the week, leading up to the game, a player was asked by the media how he felt about Roper getting the start. The reply was something like, “This guy was recruited to Oregon, so he’s got to be good.”

Last one: Marcus Mariota wanted to play QB but he was sitting behind a great one. Discouraged, his dad told him to be patient and just be the best he could be. MM didn’t get to start in high school until his senior year. When he started for Oregon as a redshirt freshman, he had only actually played QB in a real game one year out of the previous 5.

You never know when your name will be called and you just got to be ready.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Justin Roper started in the 2007 Sun Bowl game due to the injuries of three QBs in front of him, and Chip had an offensive game plan that surprised South Florida, and enabled Roper to throw four touchdown passes in that game. Yet he left for Montana as other QBs on the roster beat him out the next fall…

Great examples Jon…


Chico Duck did a great write-up on Millen. Coming out of high school, he was reading defenses and going through progressions at a high level. Not your typical HS player. He’s also an excellent athlete for the position. His Sparq rating was very high. He was a bit undersized coming into the program but has spent a great deal of time in the weight room. If JoMo wants an accurate and athletic QB that makes quick decisions, then Millen fits the bill.


His problem is he may have a hard time getting on the field in order to show what he can do. It’s got to be real hard for these QB’s that were really good in HS to come to a program and just sit, year after year. It would be nice if he would get some real play time in a game.


Cristobal has recruited so well that there will inevitably going to be some attrition. Good problem to have.

Santa Rosa Duck

Nice write up Zeke. He has real potential but we have not seen anything yet. Wishing him the best and hoping he does not transfer to the puppies.


Nicely done, Zeke. I’ve been intrigued with Cale from the start; his measurables and touch are great; while the sublime irony of the oldest son of one of the biggest Husky Honks in existence, playing for the O is unparalleled; He didn’t want his dad to see him playing as Oregon in virtual mode, what’s going to happen when Cale takes the field in a Ducks uniform? Will Hugh the Husky Honk be donning Ducks gear in the stands, or can he at least watch his kid play for real on TV?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Actually, his younger brother, Clay, who recently verballed to Arizona, is also 6’3″ and Hugh might have a tough time watching them both!

BTW..at Rivals.com–I see that Oregon has moved up to No. 3 in the nation for recruiting, and it would be sweet to hold it. (And Washington is at No. 26)

Jon Joseph

Interesting that he decommitted from NW. He would have an excellent shot at starting in Evanston this season; at least for conference games.


Nice highlight of a good candidate Zeke, thanks for putting it together. Time will only tell but our stable at QB looks good right now. Wish them all the best and “let the games begin”. (please)