EUGENE — The Oregon Ducks (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) have yet to name a starter at quarterback for Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Colorado (3-1).

But what makes the uncertainty at the position “scary,” said Nigel Burton, is that it could continue into the future if Oregon can’t develop its recruits.

Burton is in his first season as a Pac-12 Networks analyst after his five-season tenure as Portland State head coach ended last winter. His experience observing UO football goes back to 2001, when he coached defensive backs for the Vikings before serving as Oregon State’s secondary coach from 2003-07.

Burton discussed the play of Vernon Adams Jr. and Jeff Lockie, and the long-term outlook for Oregon, on Tuesday’s “Inside Pac-12 Football” show.

The Ducks rank 60th in team passing efficiency, the lowest for the program since 2006, which was also the last season in which UO rotated quarterbacks — in that case, Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf.

Offensive coordinator Scott Frost said on Monday that playing Adams while he recovers from a broken index finger on this throwing hand felt like “a little bit of a disservice” to Adams. At Eastern Washington, Adams completed 66.1 percent of his passes last season, and was highly accurate throwing deep. But the finger has limited both the power and touch he can pass with, leading to a 60 percent completion rate and four touchdowns against two interceptions. 

Where the Oregon Ducks rank among FBS in team passing efficiency

2015: 60th

2014: 1st

2013: 5th

2012: 7th

2011: 9th

2010: 14th

2009: 59th

2008: 56th

2007: 42nd

2006: 76th

But when asked whether Oregon would consider shutting down Adams until he was healthy, Frost said UO will play “anybody who’s up and able to go gets reps. Right now we’re counting on vernon, Jeff and Taylor Alie.”

Former four-star recruit Morgan Mahalak, a redshirt freshman, has run the scout team exclusively this fall after true freshman Travis Jonsen, himself a four-star-caliber QB, injured a foot and is sitting out the season.

“This is what feels different,” Burton said. “This is the first time they’ve had quarterback issues at the University of Oregon that I can ever remember.”

Adams, whose play and ability to throw accurate downfield — his specialty at Eastern Washington — has been hampered by a broken index finger on his throwing hand, was criticized by one Pac-12 assistant who spoke anonymously to Sports Illustrated this week.

“He put up numbers, but Eastern Washington is still putting up numbers without him,” quoted the assistant as saying. “He wouldn’t play at Ohio State or USC. Would he play at another great school? Probably not. He took a huge jump up.”

— Andrew Greif

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