How Oregon Can Optimize Dillon Gabriel

David Marsh Editorials

Dillon Gabriel transferring to Oregon for the 2024 season is a big deal, as it gives Oregon a top-tier quarterback right away. Gabriel is going to have a loaded roster, even with some key contributors in Jackson Powers-Johnson, Bucky Irving and Troy Franklin leaving for the NFL. With the addition of Gabriel, the Ducks will be a contender for the B1G Conference Championship in Year 1.

But how much Oregon is going to be able to get out of its new quarterback will depend not on the skill players, but on the back-up quarterbacks. A key component to Gabriel’s game is being a constant threat to run the ball. This season Gabriel led the Oklahoma Sooners in rushing touchdowns with 12 and was third in total yards and carries with 373 and 93, respectively.

Oklahoma did not rely too much on the run game, so this will be a change for Gabriel next year as Jordan James and Noah Whittington are the most likely running back duo. Gabriel will also continue be a constant threat to run the ball. For Oregon this season, Bo Nix ran relatively little compared to his to his 2022 season. This was a decision that had less to do with Nix and his running ability, and more to do with coaching decisions in reducing the risk to Nix.

Nix ran less this year most likely because the coaching staff looked at the quarterbacks behind him and knew the season was over if they had to start either Ty Thompson or Austin Novosad. In 2022, Nix played on an injured ankle against Utah and Oregon State. This year the coaches changed the game plan and used Nix’s experience and accuracy to keep him in the pocket more to prevent him from running.

In truth, this may have been a mistake, as in both games against Washington, the Huskies never expected him to run and just pinned their ears back and attacked the line of scrimmage with far too much success.

Austin Novosad spent the 2023 season red-shirting.
(Photo From X – Austin Novosad)

Gabriel will be in a similar place as Nix in 2023 if Oregon does not address and fix its backup problem. As of last night, Oregon landed former UCLA quarterback, and a former Oregon verbal commit, Dante Moore — who played like a freshman last year but still has plenty of potential to grow. He had some decent moments, but also made some awful freshman errors. However, this is nothing an off-season of work with a veteran like Gabriel can’t improve upon.

Novosad returns, but as Duck fans we haven’t seen much from him to date. He has a good arm, but the biggest question isn’t about physical talent or ability. Is he a contender to operate the offense confidently? We don’t have an answer to that question just yet. Oregon has Luke Moga set to join the team this off-season as well, but as a true freshman he will most likely redshirt.

Moore is the clear favorite as a back-up if Gabriel were to go down, and if Dan Lanning and Will Stein want to get the most out of Gabriel, they are going to need to let him use his legs.

If they do, Oregon could be in contention for a B1G Championship their first year in the conference.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo From X – Sooners Wire


Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in technology in SLC, Utah.

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In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

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