Oregon's quarterback competition became 25 percent lighter this morning when redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. informed new Ducks coach Willie Taggart Thursday night that he would seek a transfer.
That meant more quarterback reps on Friday for sophomore Justin Herbert, redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister, who enrolled early enough to participate in spring drills.
So where does Wilson's decision leave the Ducks entering the team's 2:30 p.m. scrimmage Saturday at Jesuit High School?
First and foremost, Wilson bailing after five spring practices is an indication of how much of an uphill battle he viewed beating out Herbert, who started seven games last season and looked like a future NFL Draft pick in the process.
Something had to give. Oregon had four quarterbacks all within a year of eligibility of one another. That dynamic rarely ever holds for long because players play college football to play, not hold a clipboard, and there simply isn't much room for a backup quarterback to see the field unless the starter gets injured.
Consequently, the odds of Herbert, Wilson, and Jonsen all remaining at Oregon heading into next fall appeared to be a long shot at best, and as it turns out, the trio didn't last together beyond the fifth practice of spring drills.
Oregon is more than fine without Wilson and won't miss him much unless he goes on to win the Heisman Trophy elsewhere and Herbert dramatically regresses.
What should be encouraging to UO fans is that Jonsen is back to being Jonsen, according to a team source. Fans should remember that Jonsen had a good spring session last year and entered the summer as a close No. 2 to senior starter Dakota Prukop, a transfer from Montana State. However, in the fall, Jonsen got banged up a bit, his performance went south and his confidence waned. He ended up falling all the way back to No. 4 behind Prukop, Herbert and Wilson, who ultimately redshirted.
Had Jonsen maintained the high level of play he had displayed during spring, he might have been the next man up after Prukop faltered. Instead it was Herbert, who had a fantastic season after replacing Herbert as the starter in sixth game of the season and threw for 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
A new coaching staff means new beginnings for everyone on the roster, including the quarterbacks. Taggart has insisted that the starting job is up for grabs, regardless of what Herbert did last season. Jonsen has taken that to heart and is starting to regain the form that made him the No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation when he came to Oregon as a four-star recruit in 2015.
According to a source, Jonsen is playing with a higher degree of confidence, which has allowed his talent to shine. While Herbert is the more polished passer of the two, Jonsen is the better runner. What makes the competition so fierce is that Herbert run wells and Jonsen certainly can sling it.
Then there is Burmeister. Taggart said last week that the freshman recruit has been seen working on his own in the film room in order to learn the system and it's showing on the field.
Sources say that Burmeister has performed very well and could be in the race when it's all said and done.
Ideally, however, Herbert improves to the point where he is an undeniable superstar, and Brumeister redshirts in order to create two years of eligibility separation between him and Herbert.
Having Herbert as a junior in 2018 and Brumeister as the redshirt freshman backup would be the perfect set up.
But what of Jonsen? If he is beaten out by Herbert it would be best for him to transfer in search of a place to play, just like Wilson has done.
These situations are never easy to navigate, not for the players or the coaches. But it's a good problem to have if you're Oregon when a quarterback as talented as Wilson bails because he sees that there is simply too much talent around him to feel comfortable he can win the job.