By Anne M. Peterson – AP Sports Writer
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon first-year coach Dan Lanning isn’t dropping any clues about his starting quarterback this season.
“If I felt like it gave us a competitive advantage to tell you, I would,” Lanning said. “I don’t.”
Fall camp has been a battle behind closed doors between transfer Bo Nix and redshirt freshmen Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield. Nix, a fourth-year junior, is widely considered the favorite to start for the No. 11 Ducks, who have undergone quite a makeover in the offseason.
Former coach Mario Cristobal has moved on, quarterback Anthony Brown is now with the Baltimore Ravens, and defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft by the New York Giants.
Nix transferred to Oregon from Auburn, where he was a three-year starter. The former five-star recruit started the first 34 games of his career before a season-ending ankle injury last November.
Nix threw for 2,294 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions last season. He also ran for four touchdowns.
Thompson played in three games last season as a true freshman behind starter Anthony Brown. He passed for 87 total yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
“Oregon quarterbacks, just like any quarterback, the most important thing you can do is be right with the football, take care of the football because possessions and limiting turnovers is the most important thing,” Thompson said. “Making good decisions, putting the ball in the right spot.”
Lanning, known as a defensive specialist, is nonetheless clear about what he wants from a QB.
“Ultimately, you want to be able operate the system. You have to have a great understanding of the system that we want to run. But for me at quarterback, it’s about a guy that can get the ball to an open receiver and a guy that doesn’t turn it over,” Lanning said. “I think all those guys have good command of the offense.”
Lanning came to Oregon after Mario Cristobal went home to Miami. Cristobal went 35-13 as head coach of the Ducks, winning the Pac-12 championship twice during his tenure.
Lanning, 35, came from Georgia, where he was defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the last three seasons. The Bulldogs had the top-ranked defense in the nation last season when they won the national championship.
As for his goals, Lanning tipped his hat to Oregon’s old “Win The Day” mantra from former coach Chip Kelly’s tenure.
“Our goal right now is to win today. I know that’s an old phrase that’s been said here a lot but it’s really true. We’re looking for investments. Each day, we’re putting money in the bank. We want to be able to capitalize on those investments down the road,” he said. “That’s where it starts. Focusing on Oregon.”
The Ducks are still reeling from the loss of tight end Spencer Webb, who died after striking his head during an offseason outing at a popular swimming spot in Eugene.
Webb, who had a large following on TikTok, was expected to compete for a starting role this season. In his career with the Ducks, he had 31 receptions for 296 yards and four touchdowns.
“Spencer was a really unselfish guy, and he always cared about the team. Everybody saw that,” said linebacker Justin Flowe. “It really hurt when Spencer passed. When he passed, everybody just wanted to make everything about the team and just the culture and everything, it just we made it even more just for Spencer, because we really loved him.”
Early on last season, the Ducks climbed into the national championship conversation with a 35-28 victory over then-No. 3 Ohio State. But they stumbled at the finish — a 38-7 drubbing by Utah in the second-to-last game of the regular season, and a second loss to the Utes in the Pac-12 Championship game.
After Cristobal left, assistant Bryan McClendon served as interim coach to lead the Ducks into the Alamo Bowl. Oregon lost 47-32 to Oklahoma State finishing the season 10-4 and ranked No. 22 in the final AP Top 25.
There’s intrigue for the Ducks right at the start when they play Lanning’s old team, Georgia, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 3.
Oregon plays No. 25 BYU on Sept 17 before embarking on the Pac-12 season. They host No. 7 Utah — the team that beat them in the Pac-12 championship game last season — on Nov. 19.
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