Season In Review: Quarterback
Reviewing Oregon's 2021 season and looking ahead to spring drills.
QB: Anthony Brown, Sr.; Ty Thompson, Fr./Jay Butterfield, Fr.; Robby Ashford, Fr.; Bradley Yaffe, So.; A.J. Abbott, Fr.
Starter: After contributing off the bench as a change-of-pace player in 2020, Anthony Brown took over full-time as Oregon's quarterback for the 2021 season. A powerful runner suited for coordinator Joe Moorhead's RPO schemes, Brown was 250-of-390 passing for 2,989 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he also ran for 658 yards with nine touchdowns. His 3,647 yards of total offense were the most in the Pac-12 in 2021, making Brown the first UO quarterback to hold that distinction since Marcus Mariota led the conference with 5,224 yards on his way to the Heisman Trophy in 2014. By average, Brown's 260.5 yards per game ranked third on the season, but in helping Oregon reach the conference title game and a bowl, Brown was the only Pac-12 quarterback in 2021 to play in 14 games.
Those 14 appearances offered a wide range of outcomes for Brown, from the high of leading a win at Ohio State to lows including a loss at Stanford that saw Brown offer a brutally frank assessment of his own play. He was most sharp as a passer during a three-game stretch of October in which he was 74-of-98 for 847 with four touchdowns, in wins over California, UCLA and Colorado. At other times he was most dangerous as a runner, including back-to-back November wins over UW and WSU in which Brown rushed a combined 29 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Like the team as a whole, Brown struggled in the Ducks' two losses to Utah, completing 30-of-59 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. He capped the season by throwing for 306 yards in the Alamo Bowl, including touchdown passes in the second half that travelled 66, 34 and 30 yards.
Reserves: Five-star recruit Ty Thompson took a majority of the backup reps in practice and made three appearances off the bench in 2021. He was 7-of-15 passing for 87 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in those appearances, throwing for two scores in his most extensive action of the season, against Stony Brook. But perhaps the closest competition on the depth chart in 2021 was between Thompson and second-year-freshman Jay Butterfield, who also got some game reps against Stony Brook. In the Ducks' weekly 2-minute drill held each Wednesday, Thompson and Butterfield were trading off leading the No. 2 offense late in the season, Thompson doing so one week and Butterfield the next.
Developmental squad: Another second-year freshman, Robby Ashford, was a swing player in 2021, balancing his time between the travel squad and the scout team. He also missed some time late in the season due to injury. The mainstay with the developmental squad, as he had been the previous three years, was Bradley Yaffe, who was a fourth-year sophomore in 2021 and walked on senior day after earning his undergraduate degree. Newcomer A.J. Abbott saw his debut in practice delayed due to injury and didn't join the rotation until very late in the season.
QB: Bo Nix, Sr.; Ty Thompson, RFr./Jay Butterfield, RFr.; A.J. Abbott, Fr.
What To Watch: It's a new era for the Oregon football program entering 2022, including at quarterback. New head coach Dan Lanning and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham welcomed Auburn transfer Bo Nix into the fold from the transfer portal. With 34 career appearances under his belt, Nix provides an infusion of experience that Oregon was lacking, given that Brown's eligibility expired and the younger quarterbacks made only a handful of appearances last fall. Ashford announced his intention to transfer out and the Ducks haven't signed a high school recruit for this cycle, so for the moment at least the roster includes four quarterbacks. After a 2021 season that saw Moorhead limited for a big chunk of the season by a health issue, and a 2020 season upended by the COVID pandemic, here's hoping for a year of stability for Butterfield and Thompson, as they look to continue developing with still plenty of time left in their collegiate eligibility.