Duck QB election long way from being called
EUGENE — Vernon Adams Jr. was essentially elected Oregon’s starter before the ink dried on his celebrated math test.
It appears that there will be more of a contested quarterback convention during the 2016 fall camp.
Dakota Prukop, the front-runner, is in the process of mastering the offense and developing chemistry with his new teammates. The Montana State graduate transfer knows that freshman Travis Jonsen, already in his second spring with the Ducks, isn’t conceding the race anytime soon.
“It’s a very normal thing,” Prukop said. “I love quarterback competitions. I think they bring out the best in everyone. We had that talk in the quarterback room. I was talking with Travis, me and him specifically talked about it. I told him, ‘If you beat me out, that means you (played) awesome.’
“That’s how I look at it. I don’t look at it as a negative. You can really develop your skills as a quarterback constantly being under pressure. Having that pressure loom over you, I think it’s good to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable in the competition.”
There is more pressure on Prukop, a former Big Sky star like Adams, to win the job in a one-and-done senior season at the FBS level.
Jonsen, a touted recruit who redshirted in 2015 after undergoing foot surgery, said he’d like to put an end to Oregon’s recent trend of relying on graduate transfers at the sport’s most important position.
“Setting goals, (I’m) just trying to be the best quarterback out there on the field,” Jonsen said on Friday after the Ducks wrapped up the second week of spring practice with a scrimmage at Autzen Stadium. “I hopefully want to get the starting job. That’s my goal.”
Prukop’s experience still makes him the clear favorite to be the starter when Oregon opens the season on Sept. 3 against UC Davis. In 2015, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound FCS All-American passed for 3,025 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and ran for 797 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Devon Allen, who led the Ducks with seven touchdown receptions during Marcus Mariota’s Heisman Trophy season and also played with Adams, has been watching the competition from the sideline. The speedy wide receiver is focusing on track this spring ahead of this summer’s Olympic Trials in Eugene.
“Vernon was such a dynamic playmaker that it’s kind of hard not to be wowed by him. Dakota is kind of starting to fit in, he’s getting the offense, he’s getting more confident. As time goes and he gets more confident, he’ll be a lot better,” Allen said. “I haven’t seen (Jonsen) run in a while coming off that toe injury. He looks like a great athlete, he’s running around really well. …
“The competition is probably going to be as tight here as it has been in four or five years. That will be good, kind of bring out the best in everybody.”
True freshman Terry Wilson, a member of the 2016 recruiting class who enrolled early, is also getting a lot of snaps this spring. Senior Jeff Lockie and walk-on Taylor Alie, Adams’ backups last season, are taking a bit of a backseat so the coaches can evaluate the new quarterbacks on the block.
“We’re trying to give the new guys the majority of the reps. Each day they all get better,” offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said. “They’ve all been embraced by the rest of the team. The same happened with Vernon last year. That was a question that came up all the time: How was he going to get chemistry, he was only here for a week? Well, our team wants to win, and whoever is back there doesn’t matter.”
Considering his tardiness to fall camp and that he was replacing a legend, Adams performed at an extremely high level. The former Eastern Washington star led the nation in passing efficiency, throwing 26 touchdowns and six interceptions in only 10 games at Oregon.
Adams brought a confidence to the Ducks that made them unbeatable when he was healthy and extremely vulnerable when he was hurt.
“That swagger and that confidence that Vernon brought to our team, whoever can manage to do that first, I think that’s who’s going to be our guy,” said wide receiver Darren Carrington, who developed an almost instant chemistry with Adams last August. “It’s just a matter of who can lead us. We have leaders on the team, but at quarterback, who can lead us to the promised land?”