Breaking In a New QB: How Has Oregon Done?

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As the 2020 season approaches and the Ducks prepare to hand the reigns to a new quarterback, it is fair to wonder what fans can expect. How have past Oregon QBs fared in their inaugural seasons?

For simplicity’s sake, QBs will only be considered if they started at least a third of the season.

2017: Braxton Burmeister

Poor Braxton Burmeister. The true freshman had to take over for a red hot No. 10 in the middle of the 2017 season and the coaching staff had clearly not prepared him for it. He passed for only 330 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games. Burmeister proved that the new coaching staff had failed to develop a serviceable backup for their starter, and the Ducks won only a single game with him at the helm.

Burmeister was a decent runner, however. Running for 102 yards and three scores despite teams routinely playing eight players in the box, the young QB proved that, given time, he could develop into a decent player.

2016: Justin Herbert and Dakota Prukop

Gary Breedlove

Dakota Prukop wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t good enough to prop up an awful defense.

Justin Herbert was the first true freshman to start at QB for the Ducks in a long, long time. He didn’t go into the season as the starter, though.

Dakota Prukop started Oregon’s first few games of 2016. The second straight transfer to start for the Ducks, Prukop couldn’t capture the magic of his predecessor. Even after posting respectable numbers of 1,214 yards, 10 total touchdowns (two rushing) to only two interceptions, Prukop was yanked from the starting spot after it became clear that he wasn’t dynamic enough to overcome the abysmal defense.

Herbert took over for Prukop after wowing coaches in practice with his huge arm. The true freshman threw for 1,936 yards, 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions. While rushing for two more scores, Herbert proved himself the dynamic player that Prukop had struggled to be.

The two QBs won only four games on the season, despite throwing for more than 3,000 yards and only six interceptions. No QB play could have overcome the Ducks’ 2016 defense.

2015: Vernon Adams

John Sperry

Vernon Adams endeared himself to Duck fans by beating Washington for the 12th straight year.

Vernon Adams is one of the best QBs that Oregon has ever seen. In only 10 games, the transfer threw for 2,643 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. Adams also rushed for two scores, bringing his total touchdown count to 28.

Adams’ nearly three touchdowns a game, coupled with a solid rushing attack, was more than enough to make up for the generally awful defense. But only playing 10 of 13 games makes one wonder, what happened in the other games?

Jeff Lockie was not a first-time starter in 2015, but he did have to start games. His generally underwhelming play led to a less than stellar 0-2 record as a starter. He also squandered an enormous lead in the second half of the Alamo Bowl.

2012: Marcus Mariota

For three years, Oregon sports were dominated by the greatest player in school history: Marcus Mariota. Mariota started every game as a redshirt freshman in 2012, throwing for an impressive 2,677 yards, 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. Adding his 752 yards and five touchdowns, Mariota was a sensation the second he stepped onto the field.

Posting a 12-1 record, including a 35-17 Fiesta Bowl win against a stout Kansas State defense, Mariota started his Ducks career with a bang and never looked back.

What Will 2020 Bring?

Kevin Cline

Tyler Shough goes into camp as the named starter, but will he hold onto the job?

After having overwhelmingly successful players start over the last decade, what will the Ducks’ starting QB look like in 2020? It seems that we have a two man race for the starting job.

Tyler Shough is the presumptive starter after flashing big-time talent in limited playing time in 2019. A Herbert clone, Shough has the size, arm talent and attitude of a starting QB, but will he pick up the new offense fast enough to lock down the starting job?

Anthony Brown is the man that many expect to challenge Shough for the starting job. After throwing for 4,738 yards, 40 touchdowns and 20 interceptions for a below average Boston College, Brown comes to Eugene as a transfer with Power Five experience. With a shortened off-season and a new offense, the coaching staff might look to Brown as a source of stability. Brown also provides some running ability after rushing for 423 yards and 4 touchdowns while at BC.

Will the coaching staff hand the ball to a QB who has never started, but by all accounts is extremely talented, or a previous starter who led a team that should not have been competitive to two bowl games?

Ryan Robertson
Yuma, Arizona
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.

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Well, the Mountain West Conference and their 12 teams have announced that they are not playing football this fall, although they could have a winter/spring start. No Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii, Fresno State, Air Force, etc.

Another domino falling…


Well I believe Shough will be even better than Hebert but with attitude. Brown will be there close the whole time but Shough is a legitimate QB who no doubt will take the Reigns and run with them. Its also awesome that this staff can recognize the fact you need a capable back up if 1 your starter isn’t performing or if unfortunately he gets injured and Mr Brown will be more than capable of coming in and taking crae of business.


Living in Portland and seeing the mob try to burn it all down, makes me not care too much about Oregon football right now.
I doubt that we will see a season this year.
Reports are that it is a done deal and will be announced on Tuesday.

The players don’t deserve this.
They put their bodies in harms way to play a game that they love and we enjoy watching.

I have been playing adult baseball this summer in some form of a unofficial league/pickup situation. Nobody is getting covid.
But we are independent and we are making our own decisions

The pac12 players don’t have that luxury.

Like AIDS, covid is not going away anytime soon. The flu is not going away.
Cancelling the college football season is a step to banning it forever.
I predicted before that this season will be based on ‘the p word’. I still maintain that opinion.

The powers that be like women’s soccer and don’t like college football. I have worked with people who hate football players.They are now the majority of people who are in power.

Get ready for no more college football forever.

David Marsh

I feel like it needs to be mentioned for the 2015 season Alamo Bowl that… yes, Locke was the QB on the field duing the insane second half collapse. But Oregon lost both Vernon Adams (obviously) and the starting center in the first half. So Oregon had the back up center and back up quarterback in during when the defense collapsed.

Doug Brenner as the back up center just wasn’t able to snap the ball consistently. So many snaps Locke had to jump for it or pick it up from almost on the ground. It was just bad all around. Not saying Locke was otherwise a success, he wasn’t, but when the QB has to chase down a snap constantly the zone reads and hand offs to the runningback are happening late which then kills the run game… and kills the passing game as the QB has lost precious seconds to track his receivers.

That Alamo Bowl game is rather complicated in how badly it all went wrong and how quickly it all went wrong.


The back-up center never played, he was redshirting. Doug Brenner, a great duck, stepped in and gave his all. He didn’t get the practice reps so, again, he was put in a tough place. It is complicated, but it was a coaching mistake all the way.


Yeah, I’d say inexplicable more than complicated.


What I’m hearing/seeing is that the Pac-12 & Big 10 are working together on this, Notre Dame, the SEC, Big 12, are not on the same page, right now. Along with that I’ve also seen that the NFL Draft is set up to be moved from its normal April slot to sometime in the summer should there be a Spring football season.



There’s a lot of love for Burmeister here…not that it isn’t deserved, but take into consideration the litany of backups we’ve had that just didn’t pan out for one reason or another. Yes, this isn’t completely falling in line with the article, but it does with plenty of the complaints in the comments regarding coaching.

Here’s an interesting list of QB’s who were supposed to be pretty good but either didn’t see the field, or were rather unimpressive when they did. The question I have though is; was that due to the coaches not preparing the backups, or although they were highly regarded in the recruiting world (4*), were they just not that good?

Bryan Bennett. Just never saw it with him. He played, and played OK at best, in my opinion.

Jake Rodrigues (same class as Lockie,). Yes, he had an injury in HS that may have limited his mobility, but not his decision making.

Morgan Mahalak. Does anyone even remember him? No offense or anything, but I don’t even recall anything being mentioned in practice.

Travis Jonsen. The hype I remember hearing about him, but it ended there.

These next two I understand haven’t even been through camp, but they’re already writing off (according to the fans) guys already on the roster…Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford…and which ones are going to be written off by Ty Thompson, or someone else when they officially sign/show up on campus?

Keep in mind this list only includes 4*’s, so there are still guys on the roster that once the next hot-shot recruit signs are an afterthought. How many times have we seen that only to have someone come from out of what seems like the woodwork and become something no one on this side of the practice field saw coming…***cough cough*** Mariota ***cough*** Herbert….??

I guess really I’m going to go full-circle here and ask the question in a slightly different way; have we (Oregon/the coaches) been able to properly develop talent, or is the normal hype-machine that is recruiting as big of a crap shoot as it is on actually landing the next great QB?

Jon Sousa

I think close to no one would agree with you on Bryan Bennett… including Chip Kelly. BB was absolutely great in his back up role as a freshman. Everyone expected him to be the starter the following year… except for one thing. MM beat out BB and Chip Kelly was very concerned that BB would bolt. He promised BB action and put him in several times during the season ‘ not as a back up – but as a change of pace and in special situations. BB was a very good passer and a better runner.

Despite CK´s best efforts, BB left the following year and had a great career elsewhere. When CK went to Philly and there was a lot of talk of him trying to get MM there, there was also talk of Kelly possibly getting BB as a back up to MM.

BB was our last really good back up QB until Shough last year.


I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you on that. I would say more people were excited to see who Bennett was going to either hand the ball off to, or throw a short pass to and watch him plow through people because for the most part, when Bennett was in the game, so was Lyerla…and running or catching the ball, he was a sight to be seen.

I’m not saying he either is or was bad, just that he was never really a “wow” QB. Yes, he had potential, but here (at Oregon) he was really nothing more than another QB.

Yes, once he transferred he did well, but consider the caliber player he was supposed to be…a P5 starter is what was expected, but not what happened, ever.

The funny thing is I remember his name coming up again years later…did a quick bit of research and guess where I remembered seeing it…. yep


Yes, paraphrasing, Forrest Gump, “Quarterbacks are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”. Speculation is all we can do. But, as Ryan noted in a comment, the coaching staff did nothing to assist BB, thus definitely having a negative effect on his production.

I don’t think the fans are “writing off” Ashford & Butterworth. The competition has seemed to worked its way down to Shouch & Brown for now, and Thompson is big news in recruiting, so is being talked about a lot. Hopefully, Oregon will get to a point where it will have a Cardell Jones talent 3ed on the depth chart.

Dumpster, I am going to politely disagree with your thoughts about Bryan Bennett; when he was recruited to Oregon–they had a video of him stuffing the basketball by leaping from the foul line after running down the court. He was an amazing athlete.

When Darron Thomas went down in the Arizona State game in 2011…Bennett came in and scored even more points and won the game for us and the video is right here and start at the 3:17 mark and watch his talents both Zone-Reading and running.

He had the bad luck of being in front of a redshirting freshman who eventually became a Heisman trophy winner, who would then easily take the starting job from whoever stuck around. Thus both Darron Thomas and Bennett left…

(BTW….watch the very end of that video to hear where the familiar refrain I quote often these days, and to see one of my favorite moments of all 50 videos created, where I toss cheese to my beloved Abbie.)

Jon Joseph

Alamo Bowl – I think the problem in the 2nd half of ‘Horned Frog Foul-Up’ Alamo Bowl, was the inability of the back-up center to pass the ball to the back-up QB.

Think the game might have been won if the QB let the clock run down, took a direct snap from center and took a knee.

Shough has had a lot of practice experience that hopefully will translate to the field. Missing practice time with his new OC is obviously, a negative.

Good stuff to ponder Ryan, thanks.


A great synopsis of of that debacle; With the back-ups in, the Ducks were so inept they couldn’t even snap the ball so the quarterback could take a knee. In the annals of collapses the Ducks stand alone in culpability, TCU had nothing to do with their “comeback”.


Coaches had no back-up center with any experience. Our back-up was redshirting and all the snaps he took were worthless to help us in the Alamo Bowl.

Interesting that last year, same thing happened. We have no center with any game experience going into this season. Fortunately last season there were guys who could step in from the starting group who could play center. Hopefully come game time, whenever that is our center will be ready, this time.

Does anyone know if this is standard practice to not have a viable back-up center ready to go? Seems like a pattern here at Oregon to not have a true back-up center ready to go. It does reflect badly on the starting qb who tries to get into a rhythm with a new center.

Another question is when was the last time we had a highly rated qb pan out? Seems like our guys have always been 3* guys who had the it factor. The recruiting services seem to quantify the measurable, but have a hard time identifying the most important, ‘it” factor.

Hopefully we, again, have coaches who can identify that most important quality in a qb. In the past Oregon has always done an amazing job of identifying, number one, the guy who can play college qb, and then setting him up for success. Hopefully we have that again. JH was just dumb luck, an after thought scholarship offer.


And Herbert literally fell in their laps. As to the back-up center? It sure seems like they should make sure that there’s a player actually ready to take over at center, but it doesn’t look like it is that way.

Did some checking, and found an article that puts Kellen Clemens, 2002-2005, in the same recruiting echelon as players like Colt Lyerla & Thomas Tyner.


The output of our qb’s as compared to the input is pretty astounding when you look at the talent we have brought in over the years. This is a great article when you consider this aspect.

Kellen is a small town wonder, and a great story. Many who have been around for a while will remember his first completed pass, he didn’t look good at first glance. He was thrown at the dawgs, much like Herbert for his first game.

Both games were losses, but Herbert actually looked better IMHO. Both did go on to great careers at Oregon and it will be interesting to see who does better in the NFL.

Santa Rosa Duck

Breaking: Big 10 cancels the football season. I cannot imagine we have a season now.

Santa Rosa Duck

Forbes reports that the PAC 12 will cancel the football season on Tuesday. I would have edited my previous post but do not see an edit button.

The edit button disappears after 30 minutes… And yes, the cancellation is near…

Nonetheless, FishDuck will still have articles and discussions!

Jon Joseph

Once the Ivy League and the MAC canceled, evidencing concern over the health of the players, I thought it was close to inevitable that the B1G and Pac-12 would do the same.

Will ‘the south’ fall in line. The ACC has many the team in the northeast and the B12 also has teams ‘up north.’ What will Notre Dame do?

THIS is a financial disaster. with lots of economic fall out to follow.

College athletics is 75%+ ‘leveraged’ on CFB. CBB is important revenue wise, but nowhere close to CFB.

As we have already witnessed at a number of schools, I expect to see many varsity sports dropped to club status. And many the athletic department terminations and salary cuts.

And if ‘the players’ are serious about a 50% slice of the proceeds, here comes D3 for all and/or NFL Lite. The NFL may be forced finally, to set up its own minor league; or, at least help finance select big boy programs. A HS draft, pay-for-play, and the players would be members of the NFL Players Union. With recruiting out of the mix, no CFB coach will earn $9M a year.

Add to the CBB tourney being canceled and the CFB season being canceled, people pulling the cable plug. How willing and able, will ESPN and Fox be able to step up financially? CBS has already walked from its broadcast deal with the SEC.

The above suggested reorganization is extreme, but big time college sports is experiencing an existential threat that will result in changes of one kind or another.

Santa Rosa Duck

Jon, I was thinking similar thoughts over the weekend. With this season lost due to the pandemic and with no guarantee of a 2021 season due to timing of vaccine, manufacturing of vaccine, distribution of vaccine, effectiveness of vaccine, anti vaxers and now the player demands, there is a possibility that we have seen the last of college football as we know it.


I still don’t understand why the coaches had Lockie throw in the second half of the Alamo Bowl. While the offense might not have gained any more yards by running than by throwing, they would have at least run more time off the clock, maybe enough that TCU would not have had enough time to score enough to tie the game before it ended.


Dakota Prukop.

Many of you guys are unaware that he is plays DB for the Toronto Argos in the CFL, as well as kick off coverage (watched him lay out someone on a kick off 2 years back). So a pretty decent athlete considering 90% of the league are players that were final cuts from the NFL.


Jon Joseph

Great info. Thanks.

Cool to hear that; good for him and THANKS.

Santa Rosa Duck

I would hand the ball to Tyler Shough and see what he can do with it. Thanks Ryan for the trip down memory lane. I just remember the good stuff and what fun Vernon Adams and how he could make something out of nothing. GO DUCKS!


Wow ! The terrible memories of BB and Lockie. ! Wait That wasn’t a bad dream ?? I will always remember this one play in the Rose Bowl v UCLA . Ball on our 48 , We’re kinda moving the ball with BB . 3rd and 2 , Willie T calls a 40 out down the right side line , with a 0% chance that even TB12 couldn’t make ! BB throws the ball about 30 yards . Here came the punt team and a lose !!! I remember looking at my wife and saying , “ let’s go , I can’t watch this anymore “. 8:35 left in the 3rd qtr !!!


Definitely a ponder provider, Ryan. First I want to offer another moment of empathy for Braxton Burmeister; that poor kid. As for this season I hope it’s a portend of seasons to come when the Ducks have at least two players competing for the starting quarterback position.


Wishing Braxton luck at VT. Throwing a kid to the wolves doesn’t begin to describe what I saw with his development process.

I do have more faith in Moorhead’s ability to develop talent. It should be fun to watch the plethora of talent at the hands of a capable coach.

Shough deserves the opportunity to lead heading into camp, but he will have lots of talent pushing him to become the best he can become.

Jon Joseph

Thus the coaching staff cleaning of house. Well deserved.


The ‘house cleaning’ was the prior year (Prukop / Herbert 2016 was the last season for the old regime). BB played for Taggart, not Helfrich and the previous staff. Slick Willie cleaned himself out haha, but most of the rest of the ‘house’ (staff) including MC, remained.