Who Knew? Oregon's Rich QB History has a Downside

June Jones did it in 1973. Johnny DuRocher did it in 2004.

And just this week, Justin Roper and Chris Harper did it, becoming the latest Ducks to fly the coop. It would seem Oregon quarterbacks have become notorious for seeking greener grass by way of transfer.

The news was no doubt unsettling, but surprising? Not in the slightest. Inexplicable? Quite the contrary. But that didn't seem to be the reaction among some of us (and by us, I mean them). Apparently they forgot about Jeremiah Masoli, whose emergence as the Ducks' clear-cut No. 1 QB is the painfully obvious catalyst in Roper and Harper's decisions to jump ship.

But Masoli's rise is merely the effect, not the cause. The real culprit that drove Roper and Harper away? Oregon's elite quarterback tradition.

On Tuesday, Bleacher Report scribe Fletcher Johnson posted a nice feature on Masoli's rise to stardom at Oregon, detailing how the young signal caller has found his place among Oregon's elite quarterback fraternity. In the midst of this week's panic over the defecting Ducks, Johnson's piece was a pleasant reminder of Oregon's prolific history of producing top-notch QBs, and Masoli is simply the latest to emerge.

But in a tight quarterback competition that saw four different QBs take snaps last year, there was bound to be more losers than winners.

Roper and Harper lost.

And it's not the first time it's happened at Oregon.

PaulSF's Top 10 Oregon QBs of All-Time
Rank Player Grad Yr
1 Dan Fouts 1972
2 Norm Van Brocklin 1948
3 Bob Berry 1964
4 Joey Harrington 2001
5 Dennis Dixon 2007
6 Chris Miller 1986
7 Tony Graziani 1996
8 Danny O'Neil 1994
9 Akili Smith 1998
10 Kellen Clemens 2005
Others notable Oregon signal callers: Shy Huntington, Norv Turner, George Shaw, Bill Musgrave, A.J. Feeley

In 1973, after sitting the previous season behind future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts and eventual long-time NFL coach Norv Turner on Oregon's quarterback depth chart, June Jones opted to transfer to Hawaii. A year later, he transferred to Portland State and finished his playing career under the tutelage of Mouse Davis, one of the original masterminds of the Run & Shoot. Jones went on to throw for a D-II-record 3,518 yards for the Vikings, which helped jump-start a successful coaching career as a Run & Shoot expert.

Fast-forward to 2003, when three quarterback recruits, Dixon, Brady Leaf and Johnny DuRocher, all signed letters of intent to play for the Ducks. All were touted as top-notch prospects, and, given the Oregon's rich history of quarterbacks and the recent success of Oregon's offenses, the three-headed-quarterback commitment wasn't surprising.

But neither was DuRocher's decision to transfer to Washington after redshirting his freshman year. With Dixon and Leaf both listed ahead of him on the depth chart, he sought a change of scenery.

Like Roper and Harper, Jones and DuRocher were the collateral damage in the natural process of finding the best guy to join Oregon's long list of successful signal callers.

And the list is long. And impressive.

Few schools have produced as many quality quarterbacks as the Ducks. From Norm Van Brocklin to Bob Berry to Dan Fouts to Chris Miller to Akili Smith to Dennis Dixon, there aren't a lot of programs in the country, let alone the conference, with as many talented or successful QBs, either collegiately or professionally.

In the program's 115-year history, the Ducks have compiled an impressive list of accomplished quarterbacks, including four first-team All-Americans: (Shy Huntington, 1916; Van Brocklin, 1948; George Shaw, 1954; Bob Berry, 1964), eight first-team All-Conference QBs (Fouts, 1972; Chris Miller, 1985-86; Bill Musgrave, 1990; Danny O'Neil, 1994; Akili Smith, 1998; Harrington, 2001; Dixon, 2007), three Pac-10 Offensive Players of the Year (Smith, Harrington, and Dixon), two NFL Hall of Famers (Van Brocklin, Fouts), and several others with a wide array of achievements (Fouts in broadcasting, Norv Turner in coaching, etc.).

And with so much history, combined with the Ducks' high-octane spread offense, it's no wonder top-notch quarterback talent has been flocking to Eugene for a shot at adding their name to an already-impressive list.

Unfortunately, there's room for only one starting quarterback. (Well, at least for now, but there's no predictiong Oregon's notoriously innovative offense.) The process of elimination is the nature of the beast.

Roper and Harper were eliminated.

And the list of eliminated prospects goes beyond those that actually end up at Oregon. Alex Brink, Oregon's high school 4A Player of the Year in 2002 who led Eugene's Sheldon High School to a state championship, had grown up a life-long Duck fan. But, in 2003, after being lightly recruited by the Ducks, he opted for Washington State when Oregon's scholarship offers went elsewhere.

Brink was eliminated from the process without ever putting on one of Oregon's well-publicized uniforms.

With so many quarterbacks itching to join the list of elite QuarterDucks, it should come as no surprise that the Ducks ended up with five legitimate quarterbacks on the depth chart last summer. The last one to join was a transfer from Daly City who, after leading his junior college to a national championship in the previous season, decided to join the already-crowded corps of QBs in Eugene. When he arrived, he was at the bottom of the list. If it weren't for two injuries (Costa and Roper) and a relatively subpar performance (Harper), Masoli might be the one heading out of town.

But that didn't end up being the case. Masoli has proved he belongs among Oregon's elite.

Roper and Harper, on the other hand, will have to try their luck elsewhere. And Duck fans can find solace in the fact that the elite Oregon Quarterback Club has found its newest member.

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