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Oregon Must Avoid A Potentially Vicious QB Cycle

Via the Associated Press

Vernon Adams’ one season as a FCS transfer into the Oregon football program was so nice, it appears Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich is ready to do it twice.

FoxSports.com’s Bruce Feldman first reported Tuesday that Montana State transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop is headed to Oregon, where he’ll compete to use his final year of eligibility as the Ducks’ starting quarterback.

Before he ever sets foot on campus in Eugene, Prukop looks like a perfect fit for Oregon football.

He’s a dynamic, dual-threat playmaker who, in two seasons as Montana State’s starting quarterback, accrued 5,584 yards passing and 46 touchdowns, with another 1,743 and 24 via the rush. Moreover, Prukop honed his collegiate quarterbacking skills under Tim Cramsey, a disciple of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Helfrich couldn’t ask for a signal-caller more versed in the Oregon offense without him having worn green-and-gold.

But while Prukop just may be the solution for Oregon’s immediate future, Helfrich and his staff must be prepared for the long-term implications of entrusting the offense to another transfer.

Though truncated by injury, Adams’ one season at Oregon is arguably the best single-season transfer performance by a quarterback since Russell Wilson led Wisconsin to the Big Ten championship in 2011.

In Wilson’s tenure with Wisconsin is both inspiration for what a transfer can bring, and warning out of what might lie ahead without a detailed back-up plan, though.

After Wilson’s departure, Wisconsin again went to the transfer well when it added Danny O’Brien, a 2010 Freshman All-American at Maryland. O’Brien struggled in the Terrapins’ move to a spread offense in 2011, but Wisconsin offered him the opportunity to return to a pro-style system, and captain a championship-caliber squad. O’Brien never clicked as a Badger, and Wisconsin’s instability at quarterback in 2012 has lingered for four consecutive seasons. Joel Stave has been in the program for the duration, with middling results as a three-year starter.

Wisconsin faced other mitigating factors, making quarterback development a challenge. Since Wilson’s departure in 2011, the Badgers have had three different head coaches. Gary Andersen, whose tenure was sandwiched between Bret Bielema’s and Paul Chryst’s, favored a spread offense. Both Bielema and Chryst are traditionally minded.

Oregon benefits from a coaching lineage that goes back four decades, with nearly a decade invested in running the offense Kelly perfected and Prukop may be entrusted to run. But the Ducks aren’t completely free from coaching tumult, having lost offensive coordinator Scott Frost to the head coaching job at UCF earlier this month.

October 17, 2015:  Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire)

October 17, 2015: Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire)

With staffing changes underway and yet another quarterback competition looming for the offseason, Helfrich needs to have a fail-safe contingency plan in order to protect the Ducks’ dynasty.

No matter if the starter next season is Prukop or veteran back-up Jeff Lockie — who shared the starting job with Taylor Alie in Adams’ absence this fall, to underwhelming results — Oregon needs the quarterback of the future waiting in the wings for 2017 and beyond.

Both Travis Jonsen and Morgan Mahalak — a true freshman and redshirt freshman, respectively — were ballyhooed recruits. So far, neither has anything tangible to show for his brief tenure in the program.

A pair of 3-star quarterback prospects are verbally committed for 2016, Justin Herbert and Terry Wilson. Perhaps one will emerge as the Ducks’ future playmaker.

It doesn’t matter who stands out as Oregon’s heir; the Ducks just need someone, anyone to do so. Even if Prukop arrives and matches Adams’ level of production in 2016, the transfer formula isn’t sustainable long-term.

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