It’s hard to overstate how impactful Oregon’s starting quarterback in 2021 will be — for better or for worse.
Despite an underwhelming 2020 season, it remains true that the Ducks have a good-enough roster to compete for a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth. Oregon has its flaws, but most of them aren’t detrimental. Elite quarterback play is the ultimate trump card, and if the Ducks can finally get one of their signal callers to play at an All-American level, they’ll be a legitimate playoff contender for the first time under Mario Cristobal.
Whether Tyler Shough makes significant strides this offseason, Anthony Brown returns and impresses, Jay Butterfield bursts onto the scene, or star incoming freshman Ty Thompson lives up to his lofty billing, it’s imperative that Oregon doesn’t swing and miss on the quarterback position in 2021. Just as much as elite quarterback play can finally cement the Ducks as a powerhouse program once again, another year of pedestrian passing could have a damaging long-term effect.
Cristobal is an excellent recruiter, but he can only sell “potential” to top-tier prospects for so long without delivering results. Sure, even with subpar quarterback play, Oregon will likely be in the mix for conference championships for a while, and that will be good enough to entice some high-ranking prospects. But the vast majority of blue-chip recruits aren’t coming to, or interested in, Oregon to win Pac-12 titles. They’re coming to win playoff games.
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If the Ducks can’t get one of their many talented quarterbacks to take their game to the next level in 2021, a playoff appearance is out of the question yet again. And another year of failing to capitalize on a crippling Pac-12 to take the next step as a program might be one too many for prospective blue-chip prospects in future recruiting classes to overlook.
Oregon has other problems it needs to work out, but quarterback play is the biggest thing holding the program back at the moment. One way or another, the winner of this offseason’s quarterback battle will go a long way in determining the legitimacy of Oregon football as a playoff contender from here on out.
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Top Photo by Tom Corno
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