Oregon Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal celebrates after winning the an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship against Southern California Friday, Dec 18, 2020, in Los Angeles. Oregon won 31-24. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The Oregon Ducks have set a high standard in Mario Cristobal's short period as head coach.

Cristobal led the Ducks to back-to-back New Years' Six berths and a 25-9 record in three full seasons, but as he enters the 2021 season, he faces a familiar problem. 

Last year's starting quarterback, Tyler Shough, transferred to Texas Tech, which opened the door for Boston College transfer Anthony Brown to lock in that position.

Even though Brown is the clear front-runner to start in Week 1, he will be under the most scrutiny during Saturday's Spring Game. 

There is only so much the coaching staff can take away from the exhibition, but this will be one of the first glimpses fans will get to see Brown throw in an Oregon jersey. 

If Brown shines in the conclusion to spring practice, it will generate more excitement ahead of the 2021 campaign that features a Week 2 trip to Ohio State.


Top Storylines

What Does Anthony Brown Look Like Under Center? 

Brown has had a full year to work into the offense run by Joe Moorhead. 

Saturday will be one of the first long spells of play in which Brown gets to showcase his talents in a Ducks jersey. 

Moorhead told The Athletic's Tyson Alger that he is excited to work with Brown in a full capacity this season. 

"He's a guy who's played a lot of football," Moorhead said. "He's a guy who's extremely intelligent and has a lot of ability as a thrower and as a runner. It's not like this is a guy that we brought in and hadn't played elsewhere. He had 50 touchdowns on his resume and a bunch of passing yards and a lot of wins—a lot of big wins, at that." 

Brown did not produce eye-popping numbers at Boston College. He had one 2,000-yard season and he threw for 20 touchdowns in 2018. But his output was limited because the Eagles struggled to find success during his time inside the program.

If Moorhead unlocks Brown's potential in the air and on the ground, he could give Oregon an edge in certain games where an experienced quarterback is needed, like the Week 2 clash with Ohio State.

Brown is expected to receive most of the starting quarterback snaps on Saturday. Although he will be running a limited offense, as everyone does in spring games, he has a chance to show off his athleticism in Moorhead's scheme.


Noah Sewell's Progression As Defensive Leader

Noah Sewell could be one of the meanest defenders to grace a college football field in 2021. 

He made it clear during his recent press availability that no one was going to stand in his way, per Alger.

"That person across from you, I'm pursuing my dreams, and he's the only one stopping me from pursuing my dreams," Sewell said. 

The younger brother of the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft will be thrust into a larger leadership role in 2021 alongside defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Sewell will be working in a new system under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, so it will be worth watching how he lines up and how close he gets to the quarterback.

Sewell will not be able to enforce his power on the Oregon quarterbacks, but he will provide the offensive line with a test on every snap. 

If he shows progression in the only chance people get to view Oregon's spring practice, the buzz will only grow for how much of an impact he will make in 2021.


Top Prospects To Watch

Ty Thompson, QB 

It is natural for anyone's attention to go straight to the quarterback, especially one who comes in with a ton of potential.

Ty Thompson had the second-best rating of any Oregon recruit in the class of 2021, per 247Sports, and he is in contention for the backup role behind Brown.

Thompson is competing with Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. 

The early enrollee will not have an otherworldly performance because of his limited snaps and the nature of the Spring Game, but it is worth noting how he handles himself in the pocket. 

If Thompson displays enough composure and flashes chemistry with his wide receivers, he could do enough to move himself up the depth chart entering the summer. 


Justin Flowe, LB

Justin Flowe may not appear much on Saturday, but if he gets a chance to play, he could draw the most attention of any defensive player outside of Sewell. 

Flowe was one of the top recruits in the class of 2020, but he suffered a season-ending injury in his first season. 

The linebacker has worked his way back to practice and could have a massive impact alongside Sewell throughout the 2021 campaign. 

If Flowe returns from his knee injury in top shape, Oregon could make a case to have the toughest defense in the Pac-12. 

If anything, the linebacker room would be incredibly deep with himself, Sewell and a handful of others competing for playing time. 

Again, he may not see a ton of snaps since he recently returned to practice, but given his stature as a five-star recruit, he is worth watching any time he steps on the gridiron.


Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.