National Football Authority

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.

June 26th, 2011

Posted In: CFB

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Many NFL stars dream about it. Fans are obsessed with it. Who will it be? Does he deserve it? Is the honor cursed?

We are, of course, talking about the Madden football video game cover.

This is a feat reserved exclusively for superstars. Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Odell Beckham Jr., Richard Sherman, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders, and many, many more huge names have graced the cover in the past.

The question we’re left to ask in advance of the next edition of the game: Should the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson be the next chosen superstar to make the cut?

In a vacuum, the answer is “Heck yes!” Jackson is not only an NFL MVP but a unanimous MVP. And while the Ravens sputtered during their playoff run at the end of his sophomore season, he has shown more versatility than most quarterbacks in NFL history.

Make a list of the players from years and eras past who could run like Jackson and throw like Jackson. He is a threat to get downfield with both his legs and his arms. He’s even shown some situational blocking.

His football IQ, meanwhile, is through the roof. He doesn’t throw a ton of interceptions, he knows how to escape traffic when his offensive line collapses, and he has a knack for threading needles through tight coverage in the secondary.

Some people have compared him to Michael Vick. He’s not Michael Vick. Jackson is better. Much better. The NFL has never seen anyone like him.

If we’re going strictly by merit, no one else should get the Madden Cover over Jackson. This isn’t a Robert Griffin III situation, in which we might be overreacting to his rise to stardom. Jackson is elite, and he’s going to remain elite.

Only one player really has a semi-strong case against LJ: Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. He, too, is an MVP—someone who has a best-player-in-the-league ceiling. His argument for the Madden cover is further buoyed by the fact that he has a Super Bowl victory to his name. Jackson hasn’t hit that height so far, though it should be noted that he also hasn’t been in the league as long.

Regardless, it is impossible to go wrong when choosing between Mahomes and Jackson. If we’re going strictly off who had the better individual year last season, though, it isn’t much of a question. Jackson should be the guy.

June 26th, 2011

Posted In: NFL

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As the Oregon Ducks prepare for another season, they are facing a litany of questions on the offensive side of the ball.

For starters, they still don’t have an offensive coordinator in place, so we can’t even be sure what type of attack they’ll be running. Beyond that, they have a lot to figure out in their wide receiver rotation.

It helps a great deal that last season’s leading receiver, Johnny Johnson III, is back in the fold. He finished with 57 receptions, 836 yards and seven touchdowns, emerging as one of the nation’s most dangerous long ball threats.

Still, Johnson is “only” 6’0”. He doesn’t have the build of a monster receiver who can grab passes out of the air amid tight coverage, particularly in the end zone.

Juwan Johnson is supposed to be that big body—and he was last season. He caught 30 passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns in limited action. But injuries ruined his first half of the year, and he won’t be back on Oregon next season. He is now a member of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

That leaves something of a gaping hole in the Ducks’ offense. They need another big body who can go up and snare difficult passes, and they don’t have a clear solution to said problem on the roster.

USC Trojans transfer Devon Williams is probably their best bet. At 6’4”, 210 pounds, he boasts the exact build needed to fill the void left by Juwan Johnson. But he’s not used to the type of volume the Ducks need. He played in just five total games during two seasons at USC, including only one last year.

Oregon needs to hope he can pan out in a bigger role. They’ll be hard-pressed to find alternatives. Lance Wilhoite, 6’3”, was supposed to be in the mix last year, but injuries forced him to red shirt. He has yet to take many reps while prepping for next season and could be limited in his first year back.

JR Waters is in the same boat. He is recovering from an injury and hasn’t yet been a full participant in Oregon’s offseason workouts. When next year rolls around, it’s possible he won’t be able to go at full bore.

That leaves Williams and almost only Williams for the time being. If he hits, the Ducks have a crack at sneaking into the top 15 of offensive output. If he can’t handle the extra volume, well, life will get harder for Johnny Johnson, and Oregon’s ceiling won’t be nearly as high.

June 11th, 2011

Posted In: CFB

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