What's done here at Oregon is that we introduce competition the right kind of way. Competition cannot be a threatening type of situation. It has to be something that is embraced because it makes everybody better.
Those were the words of head coach Mario Cristobal when introducing the recruiting class of 2020 and has a lasting effect.
Since Cristobal took over at the University of Oregon, players are required to earn the playing time by outperforming their teammates during the week on the practice field.
Everything is earned, not given.
And Cristobal and his staff are always looking for ways to improve the program. For example, when Jim Leavitt and Oregon parted ways, many felt that Keith Hayward would get promoted to Defensive Coordinator since he's been with the program for a few years. But, Cristobal conducted a national search for the best candidate and hired Andy Avalos who heavily impressed in his first season.
Cristobal has now applied that philosophy to finding the replacement for four-year starter and soon-to-be top-ten NFL Draft pick Justin Herbert. Again, many felt that redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough would be the favorite to take over the starting job when Herbert left college. Had the Eugene native not came back for his senior season then Shough would have been the starter last season.
Earlier in spring football practice, Cristobal said that Shough is the leader but it's an open competition.
You can never fully hand over the keys because I think you lose the respect and integrity of the program when you do that. Is he the guy in the lead? Without question. He had the most experience. He has put in time.
However, Cristobal wants to find any way to improve the program. So, he recruited and reportedly got a commitment from Anthony Brown, three-year starter at Boston College, as a graduate transfer. Brown is eligble to play right away.
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Oregon has used graduate transfers in the past to mixed results: Oregon looked like a College Football Playoff contender with Vernon Adams healthy in 2015 but looked pretty bad with Dakota Prukop in 2016 before he got benched in favor of Hebert. Many felt Herbert didn't start despite being the better player because he didn't enroll at Oregon until the summer. The coaching staff ultimately felt more comfortable starting the graduate transfer.
Oregon will not make the same mistake with Cristobal calling the shots.
He will play the best players regardless of their age. Look back to his first season as head coach when he played two freshman running backs, CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, over senior Tony Brooks-James as the year went on.
If Tyler Shough wants to be the starter at Oregon, he will need to earn it this summer, and Cristobal will go with whichever quarterback wins the job regardless of past performance.
Competition breeds greatness, which is what Cristobal and the Oregon Ducks are striving for.