Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks are a month removed from spring ball. It wouldn't be outlandish to say that the spring didn't solve a single position battle on the roster, nor should it.
But what spring does do is give the coaching staff an understanding of how the players are picking up the playbook, gelling with each other, and handling the grind of being a college football player at Oregon.
The battle for QB1 in Eugene, undoubtedly the position battle for the Ducks with the most nationwide chatter and speculation, is far from solved to put it bluntly. Many were quick to hand Bo Nix the keys to the offense because of his starting experience and familiarity with Kenny Dillingham, but the improvement of both Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield figure to make the decision far from easy.
Oregon QB Bo Nix
Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix launches a pass during the annual spring game.
For most critics and Ducks fans, the only peek inside the quarterback battle was on April 23 during the spring game. There was plenty to be excited about and plenty to improve upon, which was the sentiment that Lanning and Dillingham both shared after the game.
"We got to get better," Dillingham said of his quarterbacks. "I think we put the ball in jeopardy too many times."
"You love the explosives," Lanning said. "I thought they did do a good job of pushing the ball down the field, but you can't put the ball in jeopardy."
Despite the up-and-down performance in the spring game that saw 611 combined passing yards against four interceptions, each quarterback took strides over the course of 15 practices.
"I love where we are. I think we got a ton of talent in that room, and I think they've gotten better," Dillingham said. "We all talk about the growth they've made just from how they think about the game and the growth they've made in pass protections."
There is no substitute for experience, and the experience of learning a new offense has been challenging, yet rewarding for the Ducks quarterbacks.
Oregon QB Ty Thompson
Ty Thompson attempts a pass downfield in the Oregon spring game.
"I feel like I grew as a quarterback overall," Thompson said. "Learning this offense has been a growing step for me."
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"It's just huge," Nix said of how this spring has helped him. "I think being around the guys and learning how they play and going against the defense more and more, obviously our defense is very multiple so we see a lot of different things, that's been really cool."
"There's always room for improvement," Butterfield said of his continued growth. "I'm definitely trying to get a little bit bigger, stronger, and faster. I feel like I trust myself enough to make all the throws. Obviously, I want to get that timing that with all the receivers."
Each quarterback has plenty of room to improve, as Dillingham said after the final spring practice. He wants to see Thompson eyes and feet in harmony, Nix taking what the defense gives him, and Butterfield getting the ball out of his hand faster.
Oregon QB Jay Butterfield
Jay Butterfield is looking for his shot at the starting job after enrolling early with the class of 2020.
At the end of the day, the quarterback competition is just that — a competition. Each signal caller is trying to do the most for themselves to earn the starting job, but Nix, Thompson, and Butterfield have all emphasized the teamwork mentality that has been installed since the beginning of spring.
Having the veteran leadership of Nix and the bright minds of Thompson and Butterfield, mixed with a cast of strong offensive coaches and promising skill talent should be a recipe for success.
As for who will be the starter, Dillingham made it clear that the Ducks haven't set a date for when they'd like to determine a starter. For context, Anthony Brown wasn't named the starting quarterback until the week prior to the season opener against Fresno State last year.
Obviously, there's a brand new coaching staff and system in place. But this quarterback battle is different because the gap in experience between the quarterback candidates is not nearly as wide, especially with Thompson and Butterfield each having a full season of experience under their belts.
With a date against the reigning national champions looming in 99 days, it'll be fascinating to see if Lanning and Co. lean on experience like the previous staff, or if they focus solely on what they've seen since arriving in Eugene.
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