The Oregon Ducks head into the 2016 college football season with one major question; who will be the starting quarterback? In the past, the Duck signal caller has usually been the one constant in the offense heading into a new campaign. One way or another, this year the Ducks will have a newcomer calling the shots come September.
We, at Addicted To Quack or ATQ, are here to present you with an Oregon Ducks position-by-position preview over the next week. We will start with the offense and lead you all the way through special teams to best prepare you for the 2016 Oregon Ducks season. We hope you enjoy!
THE DUCK LEGACY:
Some of the greatest quarterback’s in college football history have soared for the Ducks. A personal favorite of my own was Joey Harrington, but Dennis Dixon, Marcus Mariota, Jeremiah Masoli, Kellen Clemens, Dan Fouts and Akili Smith all revolutionized the position at specific moments in their Oregon career’s.
Some were blessed with talent surrounding them, some made the most of what they had in front of them. Nevertheless, these quarterbacks set a high bar for any future signal caller entering Autzen Stadium.
THE NEW CLASS:
This season may not see the likes of a future Duck Hall-of-Famer, but that is not what true Duck fans want. Oregon supporters would be far happier with a consistent, cool-under-pressure, leader of men who plays the quarterback position to the delight of head coach Mark Helfrich. If that leads said player to the Hall-of-Fame, so be it, that will just be a perk of the high pressure job!
STARTER: DAKOTA PRUKOP
The Montana State transfer will enter his senior season when he begins his short Duck career in 2016. Due to the National Collegiate Athletic Association new transfer rule, Prukop was able to enroll in classes at Oregon for the spring semester, even after playing the 2015 NCAA season for Division 1A Montana State of the Big Sky Conference. If anything, Prukop is more than well-adjusted to life on campus since his January arrival in Eugene; his focus now shifts toward football.
Last year, Prukop completed 216 of his 344 passes for 3,025 yards alongside 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But we’re not done yet; he also rushed 158 times for 797 yards (5.0 YPC), including 11 touchdowns. In total, the duel threat option totaled 3,822 yards with 39 overall touchdowns and averaged an incredible 10.2 yards every single time he touched the ball, passing or rushing. If the ball was in Prukop’s hands, more than likely he was succeeding in getting his offense a first down.
Amidst his sophomore season, following a freshman year that saw him appear in only one game, Prukop stated his case throughout college football, no matter the division or rank. The right-handed gunslinger threw for 2,559 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions, alongside a career-high yard per completion average of 9.7 yards. He nearly rushed for 1,000 yards with 946 on the ground at an impressive rate of 5.6 yards per carry, amassing 13 touchdowns.
On September 19 of 2015, Prukop put himself on the map in just his second game of his junior season against Eastern Washington. He threw for 151 yards and four touchdowns, then ran for 196 yards and another score in a, 55-50, losing effort.
In total for Prukop’s college career in the Big Sky, he surpassed 5,500 passing yards, 1,700 rushing yards and 51 total touchdowns during his two years of playing time. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing for or at which level with those numbers.
Place him at the helm of the Ducks offense and prepare to witness much of the same, if not better, with much greater talent around him at Oregon. If Prukop stays upright, look for big things in Eugene, alongside a few AP Top 25 upsets along the way.
BACK-UP: TRAVIS JONSEN
The upside is great with youngster Travis Jonsen, entering his redshirt freshman season. In 2015, his season was derailed due to turf toe but has since fully recovered and is ready to pounce at every opportunity this year.
It was Prukop vs Jonsen in the Oregon Spring Game, as thousands witnessed the former defeating the latter by the slimmest of margins. Yet, Prukop slightly outperformed the freshman, even with a deep touchdown pass from Jonsen late in the game for the Webfoots squad.
For the Spring Game, Jonsen completed 15 of 24 passes for 188 yards and that lone TD. He also rushed for 21 yards and another touchdown, totaling two on the afternoon.
The Anaheim, California native was the third-ranked duel threat quarterback coming out of high school for the 2014 class. As a 4-star recruit, he was also ranked on the ESPN 300 list. At the 2015 U.S. Army All-American game, Jonsen threw a 92-yard touchdown on his very first attempt of the game.
Travis Jonsen’s talent is extremely noticeable if you’re able to watch him in a game from start to finish. However, he is young and it is his inconsistency and inexperience that are preventing him from taking the No. 1 spot at quarterback in 2016.
Nobody is going to stop him from starting for the Ducks in 2017, aside from himself. In the unfortunate circumstance of injury to Prukop, Jonsen will be the first off the bench to replace him this season.
3RD STRING: JEFF LOCKIE
Jeff Lockie enters his senior year with very little fanfare for the starting position. Over his three years in Eugene, he has left fans and coaches alike unimpressed. The 6-foot, 2-inch 205-pound quarterback from Alamo, California has seen his playing time slightly increase every season with the Ducks, since his freshman campaign in 2013.
Last season, Lockie completed 61 passes of his 99 attempts for 580 yards, including five touchdowns and four interceptions. His best game of 2015 came against Georgia State when he passed for 228 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Should Prukop and Jonsen falter with the job, the coaching staff should be very comfortable placing the senior into the fire. Jeff Lockie not only knows the system, but he is a veteran presence in an increasingly young Duck locker room. His best play this season may come from the sideline as he signals in the play calls.
YOUTH: TERRY WILSON JR., JUSTIN HERBERT AND TAYLOR ALIE
Two freshman, Terry Wilson Jr. and Justin Herbert, enter campus well behind redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen. Both will need time to adjust themselves to college life, alongside the size of their new playbook. However, over time one or both could emerge as a real threat to the quarterback position, but that won’t be this year.
Taylor Alie is entering his junior season with the Ducks, and much like Lockie, is a solid veteran presence in the locker room but won’t see much playing time this season unless something unfortunate occurs.
The quarterback played for segments of both the Colorado and Washington State game last season, respectively. However, Taylor Alie’s most interesting feat during the offseason was splitting playing time between QB and wide receiver during spring practices. Oregon supporters may see more of him next season than they believe, if he remains open to more offensive positions.
THE LONG AND SHORT:
In the end, Dakota Prukop is the best answer for the short term. He will be able to provide a spark that is desperately needed after the losses of both Vernon Adams and Marcus Mariota the last two years. The transfer is game-ready after two years of starting and impressing at Montana State.
Fear not for the future Duck fans, Travis Jonsen is the answer to those prayers. He may not start this season, but he will see some time. Once he grows and matures into the offense, this freshman could be scary good while adding to the long list of Duck quarterback legends. The ceiling is limitless for Travis Jonsen.
If the Duck broadcasters are talking about any other quarterback this season besides the two aforementioned, then it is going to be a long season for the Duck faithful. Injury was a major problem last season for Oregon signal callers, but that was just bad luck. Look for 2016 to be more plentiful for Duck quarterbacks.