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For Ducks, vibe is different at quarterback

EUGENE — Oregon opened fall camp on Monday with six quarterbacks.

Five of them attended the team’s media day. Three of them were mentioned by coaches and teammates as viable candidates for the starting job in 2016.

And two of them are getting the majority of the snaps.

The Ducks picked up where they left off at the spring game with Dakota Prukop competing with Travis Jonsen, Terry Wilson playing catch-up, and Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie moonlighting as wide receivers.

“Dakota and Travis are taking a little more reps than Terry,” offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said after the Ducks returned to the practice field. “The neat thing about fall camp is we’ve got a lot of time to let it play out. It’s basically like having almost two spring balls. Then by the time we get into game preparation, we’ll have a decision on who is going to be taking the majority of the reps.”

There was a much better vibe among the quarterbacks compared to a year ago when Vernon Adams Jr. was absent from the start of camp while attending to academic requirements necessary to complete his transfer from Eastern Washington.

Prukop graduated from Montana State last December and has been establishing rapport with his new teammates and studying the Oregon playbook for more than seven months.

After passing for 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushing for 797 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015, Prukop decided to transfer out of Big Sky country to play his senior year at Oregon, which won a late recruiting battle with Alabama for his services.

Prukop, who has added about 14 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame since arriving, didn’t expect to surge to the top of the depth chart as quickly as Adams did last August.

“It’s not like I sat down and was like, ‘Where’s the competition going to be?’ “ said Prukop, who weighed in at 205 pounds to start camp. “It was more, which school do I like best, what’s going to be the best fit, which offense do I like best. I’m confident in my own ability. I’ve been in two or three quarterback battles in my career, this is another one.

“The thing I’m excited about is that I kind of got to take the lead, in terms of setting the tone for the room. This is the best way we can get better, if we approach it like we’re here to push each other.”

Jonsen might have been Adams’ backup last season had he not suffered a season-ending turf toe injury. The redshirt freshman believes his skill set as a 6-3, 194-pound dual-threat quarterback is a perfect fit in Oregon’s offense.

“In the locker room I joke around, but on the field it’s time for business,” said Jonsen, who decided to get a tight new haircut to symbolize his more buttoned-up approach to his second year in the program.

“Overall, I think I did a little better in the spring than expected. I’m excited to see how fall camp is going to go.”

Wilson is another sizable talent, a 6-3, 195-pound true freshman from Oklahoma City who enrolled early to join the fray in the spring.

Even though Wilson appears to be running third out of the starting blocks, Lubick is pleased with his progress.

“The guy who really came on toward the end of spring was Terry Wilson,” Lubick said. “He had the biggest mountain to climb, just from an experience standpoint, literally getting here two days before we started spring ball.”

Wilson was originally committed to Nebraska before flipping to Oregon. He will have to beat the odds to see the field when the Ducks visit Lincoln on Sept. 17, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone in the program if he is ready for the spotlight when the Cornhuskers play at Autzen Stadium in 2017.

“I just really came in and I was going over the playbook, but I didn’t know it as well as I wanted to. I was just going with the flow in practice,” Wilson said of his spring performance. “Going through summer workouts and watching the guys in front of me, getting mental reps and getting my reps helped tremendously. When we came into fall camp, everything is going the way I want it to.”

Things did not go as planned for Lockie, who was beaten out by Adams and struggled when called upon as a backup during Oregon’s 9-4 finish.

Now the fifth-year senior is considered to be a player-coach by his peers.

“(Lockie) has done a great job with those guys in the offseason teaching them, which says a lot about that guy. Very selfless,” Lubick said. “He’s helping us a ton at receiver, taking reps and doing a good job of it, which makes the whole team better. We need a lot of legs out there.

“I can’t say enough about his attitude and the type of person he is and how he has helped us out.”

Alie, a fourth-year walk-on who had an 87-yard touchdown run against Georgia State and a key touchdown pass at Colorado last season, welcomed another former Sheldon High quarterback to campus this summer.

A wide-eyed Justin Herbert, a promising 6-6, 215-pound true freshman, survived his first Oregon practice on Monday.

“Justin is humble, a great person to be around,” Alie said. “As an athlete, he’s 6-9 or whatever he is, and he has the build. It’s fun to watch him settle in and kind of have that freshman experience of, ‘Now we’re in college football and things are moving fast.’

“It will be fun to see him develop as a quarterback.”

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said he wants the quarterback situation to sort itself out “organically” before naming a starter the week before the Sept. 3 opener against UC Davis.

Six men enter, one man leads.

“If Travis Jonsen or Terry Wilson were to win the job, that’s because they’re a better quarterback than me and they should win the job,” Prukop said.

“We have a great battle going, and you’re going to see great improvement day by day because you know there’s a guy to your left and to your right who is trying to win the job, too. That’s what you need in the quarterback room is competition.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Jonsen is vying for the starting quarterback spot. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS