LOS ANGELES -- The most-asked question during Oregon’s spring practices was the one that was impossible to answer: Who will be the Ducks’ starting quarterback?
In truth, asking any depth chart questions during the spring season -- when players have the following three months to get better (or worse) -- typically proves pretty useless. But with Oregon’s quarterback situation, that question was even less relevant.
With early enrolled freshman Terry Wilson, redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and recent graduate transfer Dakota Prukop -- three players who have accounted for exactly zero game snaps in an Oregon uniform -- Ducks coach Mark Helfrich knew that the spring would be more about learning the intangibles of each player rather than sorting out exactly where they’d fall in the pecking order.
“We're going to find out how this guy reacts to throwing a pick,” Helfrich said. “A lot of times in spring ball, you're in there with the threes and fours and whoever else, and you've got to make it go. And how do you lead that? How do you capture that group? How do you respond? Do you take ownership in it or do you blame the left guard for whiffing?”
Helfrich felt like he got a good idea of those attributes in each of the three candidates. But when it came to on-the-field play, the Ducks didn’t see much separation (and they weren’t expecting to see that) between Jonsen and Prukop.
As expected, Jonsen understood the playbook better, while Prukop had a better feel for how to control the offense. But both needed to learn the other side of the equation, meaning in a lot of regards Oregon was starting from square one with its quarterbacks.
Most coaches probably would prefer to be able to give a more honest look to the depth chart in the spring rather than introducing the basics of commanding an offense or what an offense looks like. But instead, Helfrich was working with what essentially was three freshman quarterbacks who needed to use the spring just to get their sea legs.
That puts the Oregon staff in an interesting predicament as it moves forward to fall camp. With fall camp beginning in early August and just a handful of practices between that and the Ducks’ season opener against UC Davis on Sept. 3, they’ll need to move quickly in making a decision on a starting QB. But Helfrich stressed that the most important part of the process would be making sure the starter is unanimously and clearly Oregon’s best choice.
“It can't be something where you're 52.7 percent of the vote and somebody else is -- you don't want those little tiny nuances,” Helfrich said. “You want it to be obvious and glaring and everybody kind of looks at each other and goes, ‘Yeah.’”
Oregon showed last season that it could name a starting quarterback two to three weeks out and still put an impressive product on the field. Chances are that’s the timeline they’ll be looking at again as Helfrich and the coaches come into fall camp with an open mind to see how far each player has come this offseason.
And he’s hoping he hardly recognizes any of them.
“They will all be completely different guys in fall camp,” Helfrich said at Pac-12 media days last week. “Completely different.”