Who will be the starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks next season?
It is a question that has major big-picture implications, not to mention one that is of enormous interest across the college football sphere. The Ducks are not only one of the nation’s premier programs, but they’re also losing one of the most promising quarterbacks in the country.
Justin Herbert spent four years at Oregon, the latter two of which he was absolutely immaculate during. He is now headed to the NFL draft, where he’s expected to be a top-five pick. Anyone who replaces him is tasked with filling the shoes of someone who piloted the nation’s 16th-best offense while boasting a completion rate of nearly 67 percent.
Almost needless to say, this isn’t an easy job to assume. And the Ducks, for their part, have no idea who’s going to take the reins. Not yet anyway.
Head coach Mario Cristobal has repeatedly indicated there is going to be an open competition to find Herbert’s replacement. As many as four options are expected to get a serious look: Tyler Shough (sophomore), Jay Butterfiled (freshman), Cale Millen (red-shirt freshman) and Bradly Yaffe (sophomore). Freshman Robby Ashford may also factor into the equation.
Shough is the early favorite among this group, in large part because he has the most experience. He completed 12-of-15 passes for three touchdowns last year, his freshman season.
Still, Butterfield could throw a wrench into the competition. He was a higher-rated prospect coming out of high school and has elected not to redshirt. A convincing preseason campaign could convince the coaching staff to baptize him by fire, as the starting QB.
Similarly, though, we cannot sleep on Cale Millen. He red-shirted because of an injury last year and was a highly rated prospect coming out of high school himself. He could easily work his way into the No. 1 conversation if Shough’s completion rate drops substantially in the preseason and Butterfield struggles to make the immediate jump from high school to the college level.
This is not an easy decision for the Ducks to make. The goal is to find someone who can lead the offense for the next three to four years while living up to the standard already set by their predecessors.
Remember: Oregon is working off two consecutive Bowl Game victories and has made a Bowl Game appearance in 14 of the past 15 years. They need someone who’s ready to be a star right away.