Oregon is repeating its recent history of starting another new QB this year, but what could the Ducks gain from playing two OBs? Many fans have complained about QB development. Do we need a new approach in Eugene? Mr. FishDuck has watched quite a few quarterback battles over the years as a Duck fan, and he took time away from his favorite NFL betting site to give me his perspective.
Oregon has a veteran QB, Bo Nix, leading young blue-chips Jay Butterfield and Ty Thompson in the room. Let’s look at a dual development path for this season.
Nix must be my starter with his 34 games of experience. The Auburn transfer has joined a loaded UO offense, and his head must be spinning with the talent he now has around him.
Nagged by mostly mental mistakes in his career, Nix has a bad rap. A former five-star recruit, he was rated a three-star on the 247 Transfer Portal Tracker. With a stronger offensive line this year, Nix really needs to stay in and make plays from inside the pocket. He must win with his eyes and arm, not his feet. Those feet need to stay under him so he can drive the ball with his lower half and finish throws.
Big time NFL prospects make big time throws, and those throws will be open this year. Let’s keep an eye on Nix early in the season and see how he does in these areas.
My QB2 is Butterfield, the QB coach’s son, who has long been said to have a high football IQ. He showed a poise in the spring game getting everyone up to the line and running the offense. He showed steady feet going through his progressions, he was settled. His football IQ showed when he made it through his progressions and checked the ball down. He showed how not to force the ball and take a positive play and move on to the next. That’s how you want to see a QB run an offense; if he never gets to his check down, it’s a bad thing.
Butterfield’s 6’6″ size gives him vision and throwing lanes that smaller QBs don’t have, and his build is one that NFL GMs love for a pro QB. That size lets him stay in the pocket longer, as his vison and throwing lanes stay open longer than a smaller QB. In addition, his big arm makes him capable of distributing the ball to every part of the field.
This two-QB rotation gives Nix the chance to develop into a better QB, and maybe even improve his NFL stock. But he doesn’t deserve that right exclusively; other QBs deserve the opportunity to develop. Only playing Nix is not in the team’s best long-term interest. We can’t mortgage our young QBs’ development for Nix. By laying out an expectation that two QBs will play, Oregon can avoid going down this same road next year.
The Ducks can’t bring in another transfer QB next year to compete with their undeveloped QB recruits. In fact, that process last year was a disservice to the team and the young QBs on the roster. By going this route, Thompson and Butterfield will wage a fall camp battle for that QB2 spot and playing time that comes with it. These two need to sort out a pecking order, and the best needs to get in-game development this year.
Recruiting blue-chip QBs and then dropping in a veteran transfer QB on them every year is going to lead to those young blue-chips hitting the Portal. Worse yet, the top QB recruits will stop coming to Oregon altogether if they know their development is going to be sacrificed with being jumped by veteran transfer QBs. Five-star Dante Moore arrives in 2023, and Oregon needs to know what it has in one of its young QBs before then.
One QB Recruit Should Develop Into a Star
There is an equation that says at some point you must invest in the players with the higher floor and a full collegiate career left at Oregon. That’s why you prepare Butterfield for game series with the first unit, and you play him at least three possessions per game.
Will Butterfield have some bad moments? Sure; he will throw some picks and miss some throws. Nix will, also — no QB plays mistake-free football. We can’t count on Nix turning into Bo Heisman. His best play in these three years has been much lower than I project the developed floor for Butterfield or Thompson.
NFL teams, scouting for first-round draft picks, covet the size and arm strength both young QBs possess. With proper QB coaching, either could develop into a low round NFL pick at the least, if he get two years of playing time at Oregon. With this approach we get to evaluate in-game performances, meaning we have game film data to compare the QBs. Developing a second QB is also a hedge against Nix going down with an injury.
Playoff-Caliber QB Play
It takes elite level QB play to win a playoff game, and if Nix isn’t the guy after a few games, then he can move aside. The next QB can work toward developing to his full potential that should be much higher than Nix’s.
What if Nix has thrown for over 200 yards with three touchdowns by halftime at Georgia? I don’t expect Vernon Adams-level play from the new transfer Nix. But, if he plays like Adams in the first half, I will change my tune and say he’s earned playing the entire Georgia game.
But the following week against Eastern Washington, Butterfield should play more than half of the game. He should continue to get a few series per game for the rest of the season unless he takes the job outright.
If the Ducks commit to a two-QB rotation this year we are assured that one of our young QBs will develop this year. They will get reps with the first team each week, plus live game snaps. More importantly, they will come off after a series and look at photos of the defensive sets they just faced and get coaching feedback. They will also learn more watching the game in between their series when they are also playing in the game.
Finally, they will also get their own weekly game film to process with the coaches and learn from. These are the things that help QBs develop effectively.
Butterfield has had two years, and Thompson has had one year of sitting on the bench and running with the second unit in practice. That only gets a QB so far. I say it’s time we give them something better to grow with.
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Top Photo by Craig Strobeck
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.
I was born a Cali kid and my uncle is a USC Alum. Remember going to an SC game when I was like 5 with him. I moved to Oregon in 77 when I was 6 and became a Duck fan long ago. I remember Reggie Ogburn OB days, so it was before the Ducks got good. I’ve been a sports nut since I was a kid.
I went to Tigard High about the same time as linebacker Jeremy Asher did, and I watched him team with Rich Ruhl on the inside of the Gang Green defense.
Lots of Ducks memories, Danny O’Neil’s passing in 1st Rose Bowl, Kenny Wheaton, Joey’s comebacks early in his career and how jacked up he got!
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