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Oregon quarterback race remains contested following tight spring

Dakota Prukop has a slight lead in the Oregon QB derby, but he's getting competition from Travis Jonsen. Scott Olmos/USA TODAY Sports

EUGENE, Ore. -- Coming into Oregon’s spring season, most assumed that the 15 practices would come and go with FCS transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop as the Ducks’ far and away best option.

The result still might be the same, but the distance between Prukop and second-place Travis Jonsen appears to be much tighter than anticipated. In the Ducks’ spring game, neither had the chance to really show off their feet (though both assured reporters after the game that their feet are just fine) and Jonsen showed a bit more big-play potential than Prukop, though that was likely more due to play calling than anything else.

But 15 practices in April are just that -- 15 practices that come three months before the Ducks return to campus for fall camp, meaning that what Prukop and Jonsen do over the next 90 days will be far more important than anything anyone saw during two hours on a recent Saturday.

“I think they both know our expectations and what we expect from here on out,” offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said. “They’re both self-starters. They both want to get better. We’re setting some parameters, but we’re expecting them to go beyond those and they both will do that.”

Prukop needs to hit the playbook to continue catching up to where Jonsen is from an understanding standpoint. But he also said he plans to spend most of the next three months gaining chemistry with wide receivers.

His two goals during spring camp were to get to know teammates and to have command of the offense. He said he felt like he accomplished both of those goals. But with the inundation of information coming to him, Prukop didn’t really have as much of a chance to spend time throwing with individual receivers in order to learn their tendencies and preferences.

Jonsen needs to continue making strides from a physical and mental standpoint. His goal for this spring was to work on his footwork, which he feels got a lot better over the 15 practices. He showed inconsistencies during the spring game, though -- throwing a near touchdown and a near interception on similar plays close to each other.

Based off the spring game performance and gradings from coaches, it sounds like Prukop would still be the starter if Oregon began its season next week. But Jonsen has made major strides and come out of spring in striking distance of the starting position.

The next three months will now be the difference for both of these players, and by extension, the Oregon offense. With a less mistake-prone signal-caller, there are enough playmakers on the Ducks offense that could make it the obvious choice for the Pac-12 North title. But if Prukop or Jonsen -- whichever one eventually takes the starting job -- stay predictable or inconsistent, the result is likely to similar to that of last season.

“What we’ll do over this next phase, this next span is continue to push the envelope from a mental standpoint as much as they possibly can,” coach Mark Helfrich said of his quarterbacks. “And then in the fall, they’re going to be light years ahead of where they are next the first week of fall camp.”

Now, it’s up to Prukop and Jonsen as to who’s traveling a bit further and a bit faster.