Preseason Camp Preview: QB

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QUARTERBACK

Who’s back: In an alternate reality, Anthony Brown might have transferred to Oregon early in 2020, had a full offseason and preseason camp to battle for the starting position, won that job and been the guy who led the Ducks to their second straight Pac-12 title last fall. The pandemic laid waste to that idea, of course, so Brown bided his time behind starter Tyler Shough. When the UO offense began to struggle at the midway point of the season, Brown provided a boost off the bench in both the Pac-12 Championship game win over USC and the Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State.

With Shough having opted to transfer, Brown was by far the most veteran quarterback on the roster entering this offseason. He began spring practice by getting most of the reps with the No. 1 offense, and he capped that month by going 20-of-29 passing for 230 yards and touchdown in the Spring Game. Brown also had a conspicuous moment of leadership, giving normally sure-handed receiver Mycah Pittman an on-field pep talk after two early, uncharacteristic drops; on the first play of the second half, Brown went right back to Pittman and the receiver responded with a diving catch.
 


In his late-season appearances last fall, Brown looked adept at running offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead‘s run-pass option plays, showing good decision-making, the ability to deliver a pass on time and also the skills to attack a defense with his legs. He’ll look to use those skills to hold off Oregon’s hard-charging group of younger quarterbacks, including second-year freshmen Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford. Each executed in a clutch scenario during the Spring Game, with Butterfield leading a drive to a field-goal just before halftime and Ashford directing a “game-winning” touchdown drive for the offense to close out the scrimmage. Bradley Yaffe is also back to provide experience with the developmental squad, and keep pushing the young guys.


Jay Butterfield Spring Game

Who’s new: The Ducks added one of the top QB recruits in the country for spring drills, Ty Thompson. He was 5-of-9 passing in the Spring Game, for 30 yards, capping a month in which he got invaluable exposure to the collegiate game and lifestyle. New to the unit this summer was A.J. Abbott, whose 24 touchdown passes last season for Stratford High of Houston broke the school record previously held by none other than Andrew Luck.

Robby Ashford Spring Game

ROB’S TAKE

Projected depth chart
QB: Anthony Brown, Sr.; Robby Ashford, Fr./Jay Butterfield, Fr./ Ty Thompson, Fr.; Bradley Yaffe, So.; A.J. Abbott, Fr.

What to watch: Though Brown generally led the QB rotation in the spring, UO coach Mario Cristobal never stopped preaching competition, even after the impressive spring game performance. “He’s the one that’s leading, but we’re not gonna let that die,” Cristobal said. “But that battle for the two spot is really tight.” The sense of urgency between the younger quarterbacks will be an energizing factor this preseason. Not only will that serve to help Ashford, Butterfield and Thompson push each other, but their competition surely will also prevent Brown from experiencing any complacency as well.
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