With spring football in the rear view mirror it's time to take a better look at who will be the man running the Oregon offense next season. Perhaps at least one person was impressed with the QB play, as if you missed it 2017 star quarterback Ryan Kelley decommitted from the Oregon Ducks. In all seriousness, I don't see this as of big a deal as most seem to. Maybe I'm in the minority in being content with Travis Jonsen or Terry Wilson but I never saw Kelley as the savior many did. Not to mention that he was Scott Frost's guy where the rest of the staff wasn't as high on him. The bigger issue of course is the trend of players decommiting and it certainly hurts the status to see a high profile player leave. Sure it might be time to hit the recruiting panic button for 2017, but that's still another year away, it's time now to look if we're any closer to the Ducks choosing a quarterback for 2016-17.
The case for Dakota Prukop:
The graduate transfer from Montana State University comes in as the clubhouse leader with his two years of experience for the Bobcats. Between the 2014 and 2015 season's Prukop put up 35 passing TD's and 24 rushing TD's. For comparison, in three years at Eastern Washington, Vernon Adams Jr. put up 110 passing TD's and 11 rushing TD's. Both are mobile quarterbacks, but the Bobcats would often run plays making Prukop the lead runner which upped his stats. With more options at quarterback this year than last year, we could see Oregon do the same thing with Prukop and bring a return to the Oregon quarterback dual threat game.
Prukop was very solid in the spring game, going 20/29 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He was especially impressive going through his reads as he was solid with check downs and did a good job getting the ball out. The best moment from him was his 32 yard touchdown pass to Dillion Mitchell right as the second quarter ended. I think Prukop's height is a nice plus in this year's competition. Sure, he's not quite as tall as Marcus Mariota, being just a couple inches shorter, but he's taller than Vernon Adams was. To me this is a plus because it can put less pressure on the offensive line. The shorter Adams often needed to buy a lot of time in the pocket as he scrambled around, forcing the line to hold their blocks longer. The taller Prukop will be able to get the ball out quicker, putting less pressure on the line, a major plus in a year where Steve Greatwood has a rebuilding project.
The case for Travis Jonsen:
High risk, high reward. The redshirt freshman in my opinion has the highest upside of the three quarterbacks involved in this year's race. But, as we saw on Saturday he certainly brings the biggest risk between him and Prukop. This was evident on the first drive of the spring game where he threw an interception right to Reggie Daniels after a promising start. Later in the game, the risk/reward was on display on back to back plays as after a should have been touchdown catch by Johnny Mundt, Jonsen threw the ball right in the hands of Arrion Springs who dropped an easy interception. Overall he had a solid day though with 15/24 passing for 188 yards, 1 interception, 1 passing TD, along with 51 rushing yards for one TD.
A spring game is very tough to judge the running ability of a quarterback, but Jonsen looked good in the moments he was allowed to run. This is a plus for Jonsen in the competition, as both him and Prukop are good runners I give Jonsen the edge. Prukop is more of the Jeremiah Masoli, quarterback power type runner, where I see Jonsen being the Marcus Mariota (and no, I'm not even going to begin to make an overall comparison) type runner. Regardless of who is the quarterback I certainly look for the addition of this in the offense.
I go with Jonsen. I think it's hard to call it senior experience when Prukop's Montana State never played a road game in a Pac-12 stadium. Adams came in confident to those conference games, mainly the his return from injury game at Washington, thanks to the fact that he had already lit up the Huskies and Oregon State on their home field during his career with Eastern Washington. Montana State under Prukop barely left the state, as one season they played eight home games and one of the road games was a cross state trip to the rival Montana Grizzles. Prukop might currently be just slightly ahead on Jonsen but I think the margin is small enough that the coaches should go with Jonsen. Sure, there will be some growing pains but in my opinion he offers the most upside and raises the ceiling for this Oregon team. The non-conference slate is manageable, allowing him to get his feet under him before the conference slate. I've been high on Jonsen since last season and I believe it's time to give him the keys to the Oregon offense.