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
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
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?
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?
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
Ryan Robertson is a defense contractor for the United States Marine Corps. A lifelong Duck fan from Grants Pass, he joined the Army out of high school. After four years as an Intelligence Analyst he decided it was time to further his education and pay more attention to his Ducks. One of Ryan’s first memories is of watching the Ducks, led by Joey Harrington, beating up on the Utah Utes in 2001. His grandfather ran track at Oregon in the ‘50s. He loves the Ducks, and has a passionate interest in reading every scrap of analysis centered around the football team.
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