Terry Wilson

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 1 - is Prukop the answer at QB?

Roses or Roulette?: Ducks Preview Part 1 - is Prukop the answer at QB?

College football is back! The Ducks begin fall camp on Monday so we're breaking down each position to determine if the Ducks, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, and their fans will be smelling roses as Pac-12 champs during a trip to the Rose Bowl or placing bets at a roulette table prior to watching a sixth-place UO team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Each position is graded using the poker hand scale.  

Today: Quarterbacks

Projected starter: Senior Dakota Prukop (6-2, 195), transfer from Montana State. 

Key backups: Redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen (6-3, 194), freshman Terry Wilson Jr. (6-3, 195). 

Smelling like roses: Prukop will win this job unless Jonsen takes a quantum leap this fall. Why? Because the senior transfer has been there and done that. At least at the FCS level. Oregon needs Prukop to put up the same numbers he did last season at MSU when he threw for 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, and rushed for 797 yards and 11 touchdowns. Only that type of performance from the quarterback position would give the Ducks hopes of winning the Pac-12 conference. 

Place your bets: If Jonsen wins the job, or Prukop falters, the Ducks could easily be Vegas Bowl-bound. Name the last time Oregon won the conference with a redshirt freshman quarterback. Try never. Even Marcus Mariota fell short in 2012. Some believe all an Oregon quarterback must do is be a game manager given the talent throughout Oregon's offense. Nonsense. The Ducks have never been special with a game manager at quarterback. Only with the likes of Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon, Darron Thomas and Mariota have the Ducks ever truly been elite. Even marginal passer Jeremiah Masoli proved time and time to be a special playmaker in key situations, especially with his legs. 

Odds are: Prokop could end up being better all-around than Vernon Adams Jr. was last year simply because the former will put the "dual" back in "dual-threat quarterback." But little evidence exists to support the idea Prukop will be special enough to carry the Ducks on his back from time to time. Not saying he won't. We simply do not know that he can. 

Poker hand: Three of a kind. Oregon has talent and depth at quarterback, but too many question marks to be considered can't lose.  

Next up: Running backs. 

Other posts: Running backs; Wide receivers/Tight ends; Offensive line; Defensive line; Linebackers; Defensive backs.  

Oregon's continuing QB competition could be good or bad for the Ducks

Oregon's continuing QB competition could be good or bad for the Ducks

If we are to believe Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, and there's evidence to go either way on that, the Ducks' quarterback competition remains wide open between senior transfer Dakota Prukop, redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and true freshmann Terry Wilson.

To be fair, there's zero reason for Helfrich to tip his hand either way at this point. It's not as if a Marcus Mariota or Darron Thomas is returning as an unchallenged starter. 

Sources say that it's anywhere from a 75 percent to a 90 percent chance Prukop opens the season as the starter Sept. 3 against U.C. Davis at Autzen Stadium. 

Helfrich's words at Pac-12 Media Days, however, indicate otherwise.   

"I think it's a three-man race coming out of spring," Helfrich said. "And I think all three of those guys will be drastically different when they show up in the fall."

Helfrich said he expects a summer of throwing with receivers and further absorbing the playbook to result in a dramatic leap in consistency for all three quarterback contenders. But is there really a true competiton in play, or is that understandable coach-speak? Probably a bit of both. Let's look at the pros and cons involved in the possible scenarios surrounding this position heading into fall camp, which begins Aug. 8:

1. Dakota Prukop is the unchallenged starter. 

Pro: If Prukup demonstrated during spring that he can deliver a Pac-12 title then internally naming him the unchallenged starter is all good, even if the formal public statements are to the contrary. 

It is unlikely, however, that Prukop made such an impression during the spring. At least, no such word has leaked out that Prukop lit it up during closed practices, and he certainly didn't put forth a dominant effort during the spring game.

We've heard positives about his progress, but he has not yet seized the job like Vernon Adams Jr. did within a few days of showing up to fall camp last year. Then again, Adams faced less competitoin. 

Con: If Prukop becomes the guy by default, Oregon would have a problem. The last thing the Ducks want to see is Jonsen and Wilson not demonstrate at least the ability to produce as a starter. In this scenario, Prukop being the unchallenged starter because nobody is capable of challenging him and not because he is playing great football would certainly lead to trouble on the field with no Plan B in place. 

2. Jonsen truly pushes Prukop. 

Pro: The positve here would be that the Ducks could see the end to recruiting Big Sky quarterbacks to rescue the program. If Prokop appears to be a strong candidate to start but is facing a tough battle from the former No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation, the Ducks are in business behind center for years to come. 

Plus, Oregon would know that if Prukop went down the team wouldn't skip a beat with Jonsen in the lineup. A Pac-12 title would be within reach. 

Con: If Jonsen is pushing Prukop because the latter is proving to be less than expected, the Ducks are headed toward a 7-5 record.

Should Jonsen win the job it must be because he is amazing in the same way Marcus Mariota took the job as a redshirt freshman away from redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett prior to the 2012 season. Bennett, who ended up in an NFL camp after transferring and starting at Southeastern Louisiana, certainly had the goods to be a successful starter at Oregon. He simply lost out to a future Heisman Trophy winner. If Prukop loses out to a struggling redshirt freshman simply because he doesn't offer more than Jonsen does, the Ducks are in trouble. Remember, Oregon went after Prukop because the coaching staff wasn't confident Jonsen, who missed most of the available practice reps during his redshirt season because of a toe injury, would be ready to carry the load this season. If neither is capable, the Las Vegas Bowl awaits. 

3. Wilson truly has a shot to become the starter.  

Pro: He would have to be phenomenal. As in, the next Robert Griffin III (check the dreads). This scenario would require a special player to have arrived for spring as a three-star recruit and steal the job away from Prukop and Jonsen. For that to happen, the coaching staff would have to believe that Wilson is a future Heisman candidate that must get on the field right now. 

Con: If the above isn't the case, then that means Jonsen and Prukop lost out to a promising freshman who clearly is too inexperienced to win it. This would likely mean Prukop is a disgruntled backup second-guessing his decision to transfer to Oregon while Jonsen would be plotting a transfer in the winter while the coaching staff begins searching for another transfer. 

All bad. 

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The best-cased scenario for Oregon is as follows: Prukop wins the job over a very competent Jonsen whom coaches believe the Ducks could win with if needed.  Jonsen receives meaningful time in blowout victories, and maybe a spot start due to injury (never ideal to have the starter go down but at least it would mean more game time for Jonsen). Jonsen continues to grow as a player and enters next season as an impact first-year starter with Wilson, who redshirts this season, as the backup. 

If the quarterback competition plays out in this fashion the Ducks will have a strong chance to prove doubters wrong by claiming the Pac-12 North Division and maybe the conference championship.

If not, the Ducks will fall short of achieving a 10-win season for the second consecutive year.