Courtney: Postgame Takeaways from Oregon Spring Game

A trio of freshmen quarterbacks are vying to push Anthony Brown for potential starting reps

Posted on May 1, 2021

Chris Courtney
  By Chris Courtney of WFOD for SportsPac12

Two-plus years had passed since the last time the Oregon football program held a spring football game, and while fans were not permitted inside Autzen Stadium Saturday afternoon due to local COVID-19 restrictions, it felt as if we were one step closer to returning to normalcy following a year that was wholly upended by the global pandemic.

Much like last spring before the coronavirus disrupted life as we know it, the primary focus this spring was on the quarterback position, as head coach Mario Cristobal and the Ducks continue to seek a trusted successor to Justin Herbert, who set multiple NFL rookie records at quarterback in 2020 en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors.

With the two sides in Saturday’s scrimmage essentially being split into offense (Fighting Ducks) vs. defense (Mighty Oregon), it was the offensive side of the ball that walked away with a narrow 35-34 victory thanks to a two-point conversion by Robby Ashford on the final play of the intrasquad affair.

Below, I take a closer look and offers up its prevailing thoughts on the action from the Oregon Spring Game.


1. Solid play across the board from Oregon’s QBs

Though the search for stability at quarterback continues following a 2020 season that was more or less defined by suspect play at the game’s most important position, the performance of Oregon’s quarterback room on Saturday left room for some optimism.

Seeking a new starter in the aftermath of Tyler Shough’s decision to transfer out of the program in February, former Boston College grad transfer Anthony Brown entered April as the odds-on bet to get the starting nod September 4 when the Ducks open the season at home vs. Fresno State.

Brown

And for the most part, Brown has maintained that position, receiving the overwhelming majority of first-team reps at quarterback this spring. Such was the case Saturday, as well, as Brown was solid, if not unspectacular, leading the no. 1 offense, finishing the day completing 20-of-29 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown.

His fumble in the fourth quarter will stand as the lone turnover committed by Oregon’s quarterbacks on Saturday, though aside from that, Brown demonstrated good command of the offense, quality decision-making, and consistency in keeping the chains moving on offense.

His day was highlighted by a touchdown pass to Travis Dye, which saw the junior running back do the bulk of the work on the 26-yard score.

Perhaps more noteworthy, however, was the performance of the trio of freshmen quarterbacks who are vying to push Brown for potential starting reps later on this fall.

Butterfield

Jay Butterfield received the first crack at leading the offense in Brown’s stead Saturday, and did not disappoint in limited action, finishing the day completing 6-of-9 pass attempts for 118 yards and one touchdown.

His opening series of the day was easily his most impressive, as the drive was highlighted by a fantastic deep ball to freshman wide out Troy Franklin before being punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kris Hutson.

Fellow freshmen Ty Thompson and Robby Ashford were similarly impressive during their turns leading the Oregon offense.

Thompson

Getting reps as the third quarterback in the rotation Saturday, Thompson exhibited many of the qualities that make him the highest-rated quarterback recruit to ever sign with Oregon, flashing promising mobility, arm strength, and accuracy completing 5-of-9 passes for 75 yards.

Ashford

Yet, of the group, Ashford may have turned in the most eye-opening performance, showcasing outstanding elusiveness and athleticism when flushed from the pocket, and terrific arm strength and accuracy when given time to throw.

His 44-yard scoring strike to freshman wide receiver Dont’e Thornton late in the fourth quarter highlighted an outing that saw him complete 7-of-8 passes for 123 yards.

While Brown will enter fall camp as the prohibitive favorite to begin the 2021 season as the Ducks’ starting signal-caller, one should expect the competition for QB1 to only tighten based on the collective performances witnessed Saturday.


2. No shortage of notable contributions from newcomers
Franklin

Recent recruiting classes have set the stage for highly-anticipated debuts for potential future stars in Eugene. And for Duck fans who have been pining to catch their first glimpses at these stars of tomorrow, they were treated to some exciting moments Saturday inside Autzen Stadium.

Offensively, highly touted 2021 recruits in Troy Franklin, Dont’e Thornton, and Terrance Ferguson more or less stole the show. In fact, it was Franklin and Ferguson who tied for the team lead in receptions Saturday (4), with Franklin leading all pass catchers with 93 yards.

Though Franklin may have narrowly missed out on finding the end zone during Saturday’s Spring Game, there was no doubt for Thornton, who hauled in a 44-yard score to put an exclamation on his three-reception, 89-yard performance.

Flowe

Defensively, the Ducks received lifts from a pair of five-star recruits from the 2020 recruiting class in linebacker Justin Flowe and cornerback Dontae Manning. Though both players missed practically all of last season due to injury, Flowe and Manning each produced moments that should buoy their development heading into the coming months.

Flowe finished the day with five tackles (1.5 for loss, one sack) and one pass breakup, showcasing the speed and aggressiveness that made him one of the nation’s top recruits during the 2020 recruiting cycle, while Manning completed his day with four tackles and an interception, which came as a result of an errant pass thrown by Ducks receiver Mycah Pittman on a trick play.


3. Katleman continues to inspire confidence in kicking game

Oregon’s kicking woes have been well-documented in this space (and others) over the past few seasons, but on Saturday, there wasn’t a single nit worth picking as it relates to the kicking game.

Katleman

In fact, the performance from sophomore Henry Katleman was beyond reproach, as the walk-on cooly converted field goal attempts from 37 and 52 yards out to help carry the offense to their one-point win on Saturday.

Since wrestling the job away from fellow sophomore Camden Lewis midway through last season, Katleman has the look of a player who is well equipped to continue the momentum he’s built after converting 4-of-4 field goal attempts and all 13 extra-point attempts from a season ago.

This story also appears at wholeflockofducks.com and is syndicated with permission. Follow WFOD on Twitter @_WFOD and Chris Courtney @csquared02.




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