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.
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.