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Oregon Football: Ducks' 2021 Spring Preview

CJ Verdell, Oregon Ducks Football

Oregon Football: Ducks' 2021 Spring Preview

Although Oregon claimed its second Pac-12 championship in as many seasons to conclude the 2020 campaign, the Ducks head into 2021 with plenty to prove.

Their advancing to the Pac-12 Championship Game was, in and of itself, reflective of the oddities of the pandemic season. Oregon finished with more losses than bitter rival Washington, but COVID-19 protocols that contributed to the cancelation of their scheduled matchup also landed the Ducks in the title game.

The 2021 campaign promises a return to some level of normalcy, and offers Oregon an opportunity to claim a third straight Pac-12 championship — and this one without an asterisk attached.

5 Storylines to Watch During Oregon's Spring Practice

1. Quarterback competition

Tyler Shough won the quarterback vacancy left at the conclusion of Justin Herbert's remarkable four-year Oregon career. Herbert, the 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year, left a huge void and Shough never quite filled it. Despite flashes of brilliance, Oregon coaches ended up splitting reps between Shough and Boston College transfer Anthony Brown.

Shough entered the transfer portal and landed at Texas Tech, leaving an offseason quarterback competition in Eugene that features Brown and a cast of new faces. Freshmen Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford (redshirts who practiced with the 2020 team) and true freshman, early enrollee Ty Thompson will all vie for the job.

Don't expect a starter to be declared in the spring, but the coming weeks will set the course for the competition heading into the summer.

2. Offensive line progress

Ahead of its return to the Pac-12's pinnacle in 2019, Justin Herbert called the offensive line "the heart and soul" of Oregon football. Most of the players responsible for shaping that dominant unit in 2019 were gone in 2020, including likely first-round 2021 NFL Draft choice Penei Sewell.

Although the group changed members last season, the Ducks run-game production from 2019 to 2020 went largely unchanged. The Oregon offensive line also maintained a similar rate of sacks allowed last season as the year prior. With a bevy of returners like Alex Forsyth, T.J. Bass, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, and George Moore, the Ducks' front five in 2021 could be downright dominant.