Helfrich to QBs: 'Hand the ball to Royce Freeman, get the ball to Charles Nelson'
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon coach Mark Helfrich's to-do list for fall camp isn't very long.
Find his next quarterback to make the most of the Ducks' offense.
And leave the preseason rankings and lowered expectations — along with any Alamo Bowl residue from the 47-41 loss against TCU in triple overtime that denied 9-4 Oregon an eighth straight season with at least 10 wins — to someone else.
The Ducks began addressing Helfrich's top two points during Monday morning's first practice before their fourth-year coach got to media day at Autzen Stadium.
The quarterback competition among Montana State graduate transfer Dakota Prukop, redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and freshman Terry Wilson that played out in the spring game reconvened with mixed early reviews.
"They did a lot of good things fast and a lot of bad things fast, and we'll get those corrected," said Helfrich, who'd like to announce his starter by 10 days before the Sept. 3 opener against UC Davis.
"We threw to the wrong team too many times this morning, which is good if you're a DB and bad if you're a quarterback."
Should he win the job, Prukop, who passed for 3,025 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions for the Bobcats last fall, doesn't need to channel Vernon Adams Jr. — last season's Big Sky import to Eugene — for Oregon's loaded offense to soar.
"Just make layups," Helfrich said. "If you make 100 layups in a row, you're going to be the greatest player of all time.
"Don't try to do a 360, don't try a reverse layup, just make a layup. Hand the ball to (tailback) Royce Freeman, get the ball to (wide receiver) Charles Nelson — that's making a layup."
Prukop sees his role much the same way, with a twist on the basketball theme.
"In this offense, the quarterback is the point guard, and a point guard who looks for assists," he said. "The quarterback is not a position where you can really do anything by yourself. It's cool to play quarterback in an offense with this many weapons around it."
Jonsen, whose practice time last fall was derailed by a turf toe injury that required surgery, hasn't shied from taking on Prukop for the vacant starter's job, because he's been there before.
During high school in Anaheim, Calif., Jonsen as a junior beat out a senior before rolling up nearly 5,500 passing and rushing yards in two seasons as a dual-threat quarterback.
"I love it, love the competition," Jonsen said. "It's fall camp, so it's crunch time as to who's going to get the spot. It's going to be a long battle between me, Dakota and Terry.
"I believe that if I can prove that when things aren't perfect, I can make things happen, that'll be really good for me."
Regardless of who succeeds Adams, there might not be a better choice this fall than handing off to Freeman.
If the 230-pound Heisman Trophy candidate can duplicate last year's performance — 1,836 rushing yards to break LaMichael James' season record at Oregon — the junior will also rewrite James' career mark (5,082) before a possible early departure for the NFL.
For Freeman, who's averaged 19.1 carries over 28 games, it's all about durability now.
"I want to make bigger plays and go for longer rushes," Freeman said. "I want to be out there every down if I can. I don't want to come out.
"Honestly, when I come out it hurts me, because it's not something I like to do. I'd like to be out there as many plays as I can this year."
On the defensive side, Helfrich said new coordinator Brady Hoke will tinker with his 4-3 scheme for another two weeks before locking in on personnel that could include three first-year linebackers for the opener.
The Ducks gave up a school-record 37.5 points (116th nationally) and 485.3 yards (117th) per game in 2015.
"Too many points, too many yards, too many explosive plays," Helfrich said. "Our two big keys are explosive plays and taking care of the football on offense, and explosive plays and taking the football away on defense.
"Like anything, it's a million tiny details that add up to that drastic change."
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press