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Key Takeaways from the Oregon Spring Game: Dante Moore and Dillon Gabriel

Dillon Gabriel Throws A Deep Ball
© Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

The University of Oregon hosted its annual Spring Game on Saturday, featuring a match-up between the Green and White teams. The Green team won the game with a score of 28-17. At first, it seemed like the White team had scored a touchdown on the final play to bring the score to 28-23, but it was waved off because the referees ruled that Dante Moore was touched down by a defender. The game marked the debut of Moore as the starting quarterback for the White team, while Dillon Gabriel led the Green team to victory. Gabriel's performance suggests that he should be in line to become the starting quarterback for the team in 2024.

Replacing Bo Nix And Troy Franklin Won't Be Easy

The Ducks have a plethora of new faces heading into this season. Dan Lanning has reeled in a historic transfer portal class, ranked number one in the Big 10 and third overall in the nation, per 247Sports. However, the Ducks lost their quarterback, Bo Nix, after he got drafted by the Denver Broncos on Thursday. On top of Nix, the Ducks also lost their star wide receiver, Troy Franklin. Franklin and Nix are tough acts to follow, leaving some seriously large shoes to fill. Franklin set the Oregon single-season receiving yard record in 2023, finishing with 1,383 yards. Franklin was also drafted by the Broncos, making it easier for Nix to transition into the NFL.

Dan Lanning Joins "Coming Home (Oregon)" Singer Matt Kearney
© Chris Pietsch/The Register Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Dan Lanning filled those shoes in no time by landing former Oklahoma/UCF standout quarterback Dillon Gabriel and 2022 5-star wide receiver Evan Stewart. Stewart announced on Instagram he would be departing from Texas A&M after just one season. It didn't stop there, however. Following his commitment, 2023 5-star quarterback Dante Moore announced he would also be joining the Ducks, despite Gabriel being in line to be the team's starter. In addition, the team still has 2023 4-star quarterback Austin Novosad. Another name to watch is Freshman Luke Moga, who showed great flashes at the Spring Game.

Dillon Gabriel Will Be The Ducks Starting Quarterback

On Saturday, Gabriel looked the most comfortable as the team's signal caller. This should quiet the fan debate of Moore challenging Gabriel for the starting position. Much like Nix, Gabriel brings experience to the table. However, Gabriel's home run-hitting play style does not resemble Nix's short to intermediate game. Gabriel put his deep ball on display when he threw a bomb over the top in the back right corner of the end zone to Kyler Kasper. Kasper seemed to have dragged a foot and made the catch, which replays confirmed. However, the refs ruled it incomplete. Spring games don't go to the lengths of overturning a call on replay reviews. Kasper took it to X (formerly known as Twitter) to prove it himself. This was an encouraging sight for Duck fans. Gabriel also connected with Evan Stewart over the top for a 50-yard completion despite throwing it from his own end zone to begin a two-minute drill. Gabriel efficiently engineered the two-minute drill despite having to go 98 yards. Gabriel capped off the drive by connecting with Jay Harris, another new face, on a slant for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Gabriel piloted two touchdown drives for the Green team and finished with a 66% completion percentage. He tallied 163 yards passing and 2 TD's.

Novosad And Moore Looked Solid

While Dante Moore's talent and upside would suggest he's in prime position to be the team's backup, Saturday showed us that isn't guaranteed. With all the talent in the quarterback room, it can be easy to forget about Novosad, who was a part of the Ducks last year. Novosad, the redshirt freshman, showed on Saturday that he may have learned some tricks from Bo Nix. Novosad looked like he was comfortable in the pocket and wasn't fooled by what the defense would throw at him. Novosad took reps for both teams. Novosad was the only quarterback to throw an interception, but that was one of very few bad decisions. Novosad looked like he was recognizing coverages in the pre-snap and countering with the correct throw. Novosad seemed to understand when it was man coverage and executed the back-shoulder fade perfectly on more than one occasion. Novosad made one of the most impressive throws of the day when he executed a 28-yard pass to freshman Jeremiah McClellan down to the two-yard line. Novosad finished with 177 yards passing, more than any other quarterback in the game.

Despite not throwing for any touchdowns, Dante Moore looked poised and efficient. He stood tall in the face of defenders and made impressive throws under pressure. Some of his throws were dropped, making his stat line look a little underwhelming. Moore gave us a highlight-reel throw on a crosser route to Terrance Ferguson on a crucial third down. Sadly, Ferguson dropped it. There is a lot of reason to be optimistic about Moore going forward. Moore finished 11-for-16 with 87 yards passing along with a 65-yard touchdown rush on the last play that ultimately got waved off due to him being tapped by a defender. While Novosad's flashy performance has some fans wondering if Moore will be challenged for the backup role, we should not overreact. Moore is still in line to be the team's second quarterback on the depth chart, but we should keep an eye on that situation in camp.

Other Notable Takeaways

A huge takeaway from the Spring Game was the show that Jay Harris put on. Jay Harris looks to be the second running back next to Jordan James in what could be a dynamic duo this season. Harris showed a serious burst out of the backfield and proved he was worth the investment as a transfer. Harris is one of twelve transfers that the Ducks reeled in. He is coming from Northwest Missouri State, a Division-II school where he was named an All-American. Harris logged 1,433 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Harris finished the Spring Game with 11 carries for 52 yards plus 34 yards on 3 receptions. All of the running backs played well, especially the starter Jordan James, but Harris may have been the most impressive with how hard of a runner he is. Harris finished as the Ducks Wire Player of the Game.

The final takeaway from the Spring Game was the injuries that resulted from it. You never want to hear about injuries, especially in a spring game. Sadly, injuries are something you can't prevent in football. Multiple Duck players exited the game with injuries and did not return. Safety Kobe Savage took a brutal hit to the head from Jordan James, resulting in his exit. Dontae Manning went to the locker room with an apparent arm injury along with Traeshon Holden, who seemed to be clutching his hamstring after a jet sweep. Luckily, Holden stayed on the sideline and told reporters he was fine. The most concerning injury of the day was the apparent leg injury that Jurrion Dickey sustained. Dickey was seen exiting Oregon's facility in a walking boot. This led to Oregon fans being worried because there is a lot of excitement for Dickey, a 5-star recruit in 2023, to make the next step this year. "Football is football,"

Lanning said. "I mean, is it frustrating for the player? You know, they get banged, but football is football." Lanning added, "We've got time to get healthy." The good news is that Lanning told reporters after the game that none of the injuries are expected to be serious.


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