No Starter Is Safe On Oregon’s Offense

David Marsh Editorials 20 Comments

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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ptdduck

As much as I appreciate guys like CJ, Dye, Redd and JJ, I really want to see the younger guys take over and develop. It’s hard improve standing on the sidelines. AB may have more poise and experience than the freshman QBs, but I see more raw ability in Ashford and Thompson.

TheRunningDuck

Remember the very good Ohio State team from a few years ago that ended the year with their 3rd string QB playing like one of their greatest ever?

Jon Sousa

One interesting topic of discussion here is how willing/quick is MC to make a change to a younger, more talented guy? One thing from recent history is that true freshman Penei Sewell was started at left tackle, a position that he never even played before. That points to willingness. It obviously points to superior talent.

How quickly will MC start a freshman/sophomore over a two year starter if the the younger guy is just a little ahead of the veteran? I have my doubts he would. That is why I think Brown is probably safe at QB for at least the first two games. You want a veteran leading the team into the Shoe.

Game 3 is a cupcake that you could give a quarter to at least two other guys to see what they can do. MC has not shown a great willingness to put in the back-up QB just to give him game experience… too bad.

Will Suamataia start game one this year? I think he has a great chance to. Who does he push out?

On the defensive side, who does Flowe push out?

Who starts at TE? Moorhead likes to leave players in for several plays at a time. This means that the guy he wants in there has to be a good blocker and a good receiver.

One thing is certain. There is enough talent on the roster to rotate fresh bodies in so we wear most teams down. Teams like tOSU can do the same.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Wow-great questions. Like you, I wish the reserve QBs would be played more often and allowed to run the entire offense. I think Flowe is going to play a ton, but I do not think he will become the starter, IMHO.

He might just give Sewell a run for his money at his position!

Jon Sousa

I think we will see Sewell and Flowe playing together a lot. Sewell is a proven starter (though obviously needs improvement) and Flowe is on par with him. DeRuyter has got to feel blessed with the LB room.

TheRunningDuck

Don’t forget Keith Brown is a highly rated LB that has been wanting to be a Duck for years. Seems I saw some good mentions of him during the spring practices.

Haywarduck

Great point David, freshman just don’t take over starting spots in spring football.

This is where even a JTT will have issues coming into a program without having the advantage of spring ball. We also won’t be seeing Seven take over the RB position or slot without more practice time.

We have too much talent and the schemes kids need to know are too complex. Freshman can work into roles as the season progresses if they work hard and are incredible talents, but those are few and far between.

At Alabama the Heisman trophy winner barely saw the field as a freshman. We are beginning to have that type of talent pool, it is nice.

Ducks4ever

Great additional point on the OL, David. The OL didn’t look great last year but they looked fine for the spring game. I wasn’t convinced on guys like Forsyth at center of Moore at tackle. If they don’t look great this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the more talented young guys pushed them out.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Your last sentence said it all to me, as the newbies at TE are fast and I like what I see of blocking thus far….

And congrats on being a “veteran” writer! Boy that happened fast….30 articles already-cool.

Duck Phan Phil

I’m not so sure DJ doesn’t have the speed of other TE’s on the roster.

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks David Marsh. Great minds think alike! We are very fortunate to have JJIII and Redd on our team, However in the spring game the new young wide receivers looked like they were playing at another level and perhaps they are.

Haywarduck

Anyone else take a pause when they look at Brown’s throwing motion? The picture in the article highlights the mistake in his motion. When he drops the ball and points it toward the other end zone, it is just where a Thibs would love to swat it away. You don’t see this is a well developed qb throwing motion, correct?

Take a look at Tom Brady in slow motion and see the difference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPaI7L39qC0

If you take a look at Jay Butterfield’s motion and I think Ty’s motion they don’t have this flaw. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F5hBk_0C_M

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Good catch, and I did note that two passes were blocked at the LOS in the Spring Game and others have been blocked in actual games. Something to watch for!

This is the type of thing you can get away with in high school, but should have been addressed by now with good coaching. Defensive Coordinators will feed off this weakness more and more. It is surprising this hasn’t been dealt with.

So true and so interesting David, as another position group that is going to be pushed this fall and it is offensive line. We have some newbies who showed me some serious talent in the Spring Game, and it is something I will write about and show an example or two of later on.

If not replaced, then I believe some new faces on the OL will emerge, get playing time and seriously improve the depth at that position group -which benefits everyone!

At Tight End….DJ Johnson is going to get pushed as starter….

Logger29

Always enjoy your articles David. Anyone who took medieval history is alright by me. I got my BS in history ( BS in my case being especially appropriate). Of course when I was studying at the U of O, the course title for medieval history was current events, ha!

I’m no fan of Pete Carrol but I have admired his often spoken mantra of “compete, compete, compete” when referencing what his practices are all about. It’s difficult to argue with his results. Your article underscores what I would suggest is a large part of the “culture” we hear Mario talking about building with Duck football. I for one support such a building project which has a foundation of daily competition.

salenamartine360

Take a look at Tom Brady in slow motion and see the difference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPaI7L39qC0