No Starter Is Safe On Oregon’s Offense

David Marsh Editorials

The Oregon Spring Game showed off the years of work Mario Cristobal and his coaching staff have put in on the recruiting trail. Oregon team has the deepest and most talented roster in program history. This led to one of the most competitive Spring Games in recent memory, where the offense narrowly defeated the defense. The competition was not limited to offense versus defense, either. The real competition was between the experienced veterans and the rising stars on Oregon’s roster.

Whoever starts the 2021 season is by no means guaranteed to finish it.

The Receiving Corps

Oregon’s receiving corps is led by two super-seniors, Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd. Both have played key roles in Oregon’s offense over the past four years. It would, however, be a major shock to see either of them elevate their skills beyond what they have already shown. We have probably seen the ceiling for each of these players, but they will continue to play integral roles on the team and serve as veteran leaders for the new recruits. In addition to Johnson and Redd’s experience, third-year sophomores Mycah Pittman, Josh Delgado and Devon Williams played a substantial amount last year and should see consistent action on the field in 2021.

The young talent at wide receiver was perhaps the most exciting surprise last Saturday. Troy Franklin, Dont’e Thornton and Kris Hutson made big plays all over the field and they should all see impactful playing time come fall. Though Hutson did see playing time in 2020, he didn’t have too great of an impact on the field. However, that’s not at all surprising given to the shorted season and reduced practice time.

Pac-12 Video

Freshman Dont’e Thornton scores the final touchdown of the Spring Game.

Then there is the emergence of Isaah Crocker, who has been with the program since 2018 but has yet to play meaningful minutes in any game. Crocker has been taking reps with the first team offense and is poised to make an impact during the 2021 season.

As it stands, there are eight wide receivers on the Oregon roster who are capable of starting. Come summer, Oregon will add Isaiah Brevard and Seven McGee to the roster, and they could potentially push for playing time, as well.

For the opening game against Fresno State, the most likely starting receivers would be Johnson, Redd, Pittman or Williams. However, the competition will be fierce throughout the off-season and into the season itself, with the entire receiving corps seeing meaningful playing time. Come mid-season it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Johnson or Redd lose their starting jobs to any of the talented youngsters. They will be the leaders for this deep, but young, receiving corps and will be invaluable assets to the Oregon offense.

Quarterback

Quarterback is perhaps the least settled position at Oregon right now. There can only be one on the field at a time, and competition for that position will only continue to heat up heading into fall camp. If Oregon’s season were to start tomorrow, Anthony Brown would absolutely be the quarterback. He has the most experience and is capable of running Joe Moorhead’s offense.

Tom Corno

Anthony Brown is poised to be the starter heading into 2021.

However, Brown’s current status as a starter is precarious. Jay Butterfield, Robby Ashford and Ty Thompson all had their moments during the Spring Game and, more importantly, all will have the summer off-season to train and practice. By the end of fall camp one of these three players should secure the backup spot behind Brown, and there is a chance one could take the starting job outright. Each of these three quarterbacks have much higher ceilings than Brown and with more time and experience, any of them could surpass him.

The most likely scenario is that Brown will start the 2021 football season. However, by the time mid-season rolls around, it wouldn’t come as shock if the number two quarterback becomes the number one.

The competition for starting spots at Oregon has never been so intense. Veterans are being pushed by arguably more talented, though less experienced, youngsters, and it is only a matter of time until the youth take over the starting spots at Oregon. The question for 2021 is: How long can the veterans hold onto their starting jobs?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: John McGillen, USC Athletics

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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