Oregon and Oregon State both left the shortened spring football schedule with a veteran quarterback with little game experience at the top of the depth chart seeking to hold off a few newcomers in the fall.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough remains the favorite to lead the Ducks against North Dakota State on Sept. 5, assuming the season starts on time.
"We think Tyler did an outstanding job in the spring," UO coach Mario Cristobal said during a teleconference last week. "He entered the spring as the starter and leaves the spring as the starter."
Redshirt freshman Cale Millen and true freshmen Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford seemed unlikely to unseat Shough, but fall camp got more interesting last week when Anthony Brown announced he would join the Ducks as a graduate transfer after starting for three years at Boston College.
"Like every single position on the field, we will always present competition because it helps our players get better," Cristobal said. "But I can’t emphasize enough how fired up we are about Tyler."
Shough spent the past two seasons learning behind Justin Herbert while seeing action in eight games. He has completed 12 of 15 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns while running twice for 11 yards in his collegiate career.
Brown passed for 4,738 yards with 40 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 28 career starts for the Eagles. He is coming off surgery for a torn ACL in October that ended his junior season when he threw for 1,250 yards and nine touchdowns.
Millen was back to full speed during Oregon’s four spring practices after missing most of last season due to injury, while Butterfield enrolled in time to join the Ducks for the spring. Ashford, who could be selected in the Major League Baseball draft during the summer, is expected to join the Ducks for fall camp.
Oregon State’s depth chart is topped by redshirt junior Tristan Gebbia, who has spent the past two years as the backup to Jake Luton after transferring from Nebraska. Gebbia made his lone start in last year’s season finale when he completed 26 of 40 passes for 243 yards while running seven times for 25 yards in a 24-10 loss at Oregon.
"I’m excited about Tristan," OSU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said on Tuesday. "He was thrown into a tough situation in the Civil War game when he did not get all the starters’ reps during the week and then made his first career start on the road. He did a lot of good things against one of the best defenses in the country."
Gebbia completed 38-of-60 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in four games last season. He did not play as a true freshman at Nebraska in 2017 and sat out 2018 as a redshirt season with the Beavers.
"I like Tristan’s mental make-up," Lindgren said. "I think he’s a sharp player, so we can throw a lot at him playbook-wise. He is one of the guys who is always around the facility, as good of a guy like that as I’ve had in a while. When you have guys that want to work at it like that and learn more about football, I think you have a chance."
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith added junior-college transfer Chance Nolan, a four-star recruit by Rivals out of Saddleback College, where he passed for 3,315 yards and 38 touchdowns as a freshman. Freshman Ben Gulbranson, a three-star recruit out of Newbury Park, Calif., also arrived in time for spring ball.
Lindgren said spring practices ended too soon to name a starter heading into the fall, although Gebbia is "farther along than the other guys now because he has been in it longer."
"It is probably too early," Lindgren added. "That is something Jonathan and I would have discussed assuming it went on, but it’s too early to tell. There have not been enough reps to go on. As for the timeline to make a decision, if there was a clear-cut favorite we might have made a decision at the end of the spring. Working with Jonathan on situations like this in the past, we let it go through the summer and made it during fall camp."
Nolan has three years of eligibility remaining.
"It is definitely a disadvantage as far as us getting a feel of him, but we have a good feel through the recruiting process and what he did at Saddleback," Lindgren said. "He gives us an element of using his legs, and some of the stuff he did RPO-wise at Saddleback. Whenever we are given the green light to go back out and practice, we will throw different elements of the playbook at him and see what he handles well and what he is comfortable with."
Lindgren meets virtually with his quarterbacks each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for about 30 to 45 minutes.
"We have basically been going back through our spring install, covering things we already installed and going through what we would have installed during the remainder of the spring," he said. "Obviously, physically would have been the ideal thing, but we are making the best of this time and try to get work done while we are apart."