Oregon Ducks

Burmeister is the answer in Herbert's absence

Burmeister is the answer in Herbert's absence

EUGENE - Oregon freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister must live up to his billing as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the nation coming out of high school if the Ducks are going to survive life without sophomore Justin Herbert, out at least a month with a fractured collarbone. 

It's that simple. The problem is, that's a tough ask. 

Asking any freshman quarterback, regardless of perceived skillset, to perform at an elite level in year one is for the most part unrealistic. 

Few have met such expectations. Equally as unrealistic is asking redshirt senior Taylor Alie to suddenly deliver as a starting quarterback when last year he was moved to wide receiver because he had struggled playing quarterback at this level. 

So, as the Ducks (4-1, 1-1 PAC-12) embark on this journey without Herbert starting on Saturday with No. 11 Washington State (5-0 2-0) at home, they do so with an experienced but limited senior and a talented but promising freshman. 

What could possibly go wrong?

The solution is to shrink the playbook as much as needed and get Burmeister onto the field either as the starter or as the backup. 

But make sure Burmeister plays. He is the more talented of the two. Let that flourish. At the very least, he will have gained that much more experience moving forward rather than burning his redshirt to play backup to a guy in Alie who is only playing quarterback out of necessity. 

Maybe, Oregon gets lucky and Burmeister plays like Herbert did last year when he started his first game at this exact same point in the season. 

We already know what Alie, great person by all accounts who worked his tail off to earn a scholarship after walking on at his hometown university, is all about as a quarterback. 

Former UO coach Mark Helfrich told us during the spring of 2016 when he moved Alie and former quarterback Jeff Lockie, the backups to Vernon Adams Jr. in 2015, to wide receiver behind transfer Dakota Prukop, 4-star recruit Travis Jonsen and 3-star recruit Terry Wilson Jr.  

The move stated clearly that Alie was, at best, the No. 5 quarterback on the team behind two players who had never taken college snaps and Lockie, who certainly didn’t perform well in place of Adams. 

Herbert joined the Ducks in the fall of 2016 making Alie essentially No. 6. 

By the spring of 2017, Alie moved up to pseudo No. 5 behind Herbert, Jonsen, Wilson and Burmeister, but remained at wide receiver. 

Wilson elected to transfer during spring drills, which led to Alie once again receiving quarterback reps. When Jonsen left the program over the summer that put Alie into a competition with Burmeister for the backup role. 

But let’s be clear. Just because a bunch of dominoes fell thrusting Alie into the backup role, and now the likely starter, doesn’t mean that he is your typical backup in waiting. He is not. He is in that position by default. So if Alie starts against WSU, one shouldn't expect miracles. 

Burmeister, however, is here because, unlike Alie, the freshman was recruited to play this position at this level. 

Oregon co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo insisted this week that the team's game plan wouldn't shift without Herbert moving forward. Arroyo said he has worked with both Alie and Burmeister to always be ready

“We’ve made the room very aware, and I’ve been doing this a long time, that all it takes is one play, and there it is,” Arroyo said. “That’s to fruition and so we move forward.”

Yet, we saw the game plan shift against Cal when Herbert went down at the end of the first quarter. He had passed for 86 yards on 7-of-8 passing to that point. Alie threw for 41 yards on 9 of 13 attempts with one interception before going down with a concussion in the fourth quarter. 

Burmeister completed one pass for four yards in the final minutes. 

Those numbers represent a strategic shift of seismic proportions.

This week, however, the staff will have a chance to formulate game plans that best fit Alie and Burmeister against WSU's defense, ranked third and allowing 20.2 points per game. Advanced preparation will also help against the continuation of the heart of the schedule with games at No. 24 Stanford, UCLA, home against Utah and at Washington up next.  

If Herbert is fortunate, he will return in time for a home game against Arizona on Nov. 18. 

Preparation should improve the overall production for both Alie and Burmeister but neither will come close to matching Herbert's NFL-caliber passing abilities. 

The extreme variable in all of this is that Burmeister is a superior runner to both Herbert and Alie. Plus, the freshman has a live arm.

Burmeister rushed for 3,449 yards and 68 touchdowns while at La Jolla Country Day High School in La Jolla, Calif.  That's in addition to the 11,512 yards and 127 touchdowns he threw for with just 33 interceptions. 

Those are video game numbers, and although some have questioned the strength of the league he played in, the bottom line is that he had the skills enough to receive scholarship offers from a couple of dozen programs including Washington, Florida and Arizona. 

UO coach Willie Taggart said Burmeister has come a long way since joining the team in time for spring drills last March. 

"He has a better understanding of the offense and what we're trying to do," Taggart said. 

Burmeister has displayed, according to Taggart, greater confidence as his knowledge of the offense has increased. 

“It’s allowed him to go out there and play fast and execute," Taggart added. 

Arroyo said that Herbert’s experience is the top asset lost when he went down. 

"You can't put a price on that," Arroyo said. "That's huge."

Arroyo said the starter is not clear and will be determined after a week of competition. 

There is a chance, Arroyo said, that UO could play both, something Oregon did with Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife (2002-2003) and Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf (2005-2006). 

Whatever the plan is, Burmeister must be a huge part of it. Start him. Or, at least play him a lot. He came to Oregon as the potential quarterback of the future. He must deliver now. Otherwise, Oregon will be in serious trouble until Herbert returns.

#AskFentress - An Oregon Ducks Twitter Q&A

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#AskFentress - An Oregon Ducks Twitter Q&A

I took to twitter throughout Tuesday to answer fan questions about the Oregon Ducks. You can find all of them using #AskFentress. Here are some of the best ones as Oregon prepares for WSU this weekend...

 

 

 

Oregon won't 'feel sorry' for itself with No. 11 WSU on the way

Oregon won't 'feel sorry' for itself with No. 11 WSU on the way

The Oregon Ducks in one week went from long-shot PAC-12 North Division contender to a team that could be scraping just to become bowl eligible thanks to a long list of injuries.

Yet, Oregon coach Willie Taggart approached Monday's press conference with a smile and appeared bubbly and excited about the challenges his team faces entering the meat of its schedule starting with No. 11 Washington State on Saturday at home. 

"We're not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves," Taggart said. "Washington State or anyone else is not going to feel sorry for us."

Taggart confirmed that sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert fractured his collarbone Saturday during the team's 45-24 win over California at Autzen Stadium while scoring on a seven-yard run late in the first quarter. A source said that Herbert could be out 4-to-6 weeks. 

With a bye week on Nov. 11, the seven-week mark would be the Ducks' home game against Arizona (2-2, 0-1) on Nov. 18.  However, a source said that the team is hopeful that Herbert could return closer to the four-week mark. Five weeks out is the Ducks' Nov. 4 game at No. 6 Washington (5-0, 2-0). 

The Ducks (4-1, 1-1) will have to turn to redshirt senior Taylor Alie, who left Saturday's game with a concussion, and freshman Braxton Burmeister until Herbert returns. That situation in itself is going to make it very difficult for the Ducks to win very many, if any, of the team's next five games. Alie has never proven to be a Pac-12 caliber quarterbacks while Burmeister is too inexperienced to be expected to navigate the upcoming series of games. 

Still, Taggart said he believes in both. 

"We have some guys that have played the position and can run the offense," Taggart said. "We feel good that they will do a good job for us."

Other injuries will hurt, as well. Senior running back Royce Freeman injured his shoulder against Cal but isn't expected to miss much, if any time. Sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell falls into the "day-to-day" category, according to Taggart.
Junior inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu is out for the season with a fractured ankle. Senior inside linebacker A.J. Hotchkins missed the Cal game with an ankle injury and is day-to-day, according to Taggart. Expect more time for senior Jimmie Swain, who made starts last year, and redshirt sophomore Blake Rugraph.

Redshirt sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland missed the Cal game, as did senior slot receiver Charles Nelson, who hasn't played since spraining his ankle at Wyoming. 

Breeland practiced on Tuesday. Nelson was seen walking to practice with full gear and no noticeable limp. 

But with Herbert out it almost doesn't matter which combination of other players will be available. Herbert's passing ability is irreplaceable. Without him, the Ducks will likely become a one-dimensional team that opposing defenses will take advantage of. 
After WSU, the Ducks will play at No. 24 Stanford (3-2, 2-1), at UCLA (3-2, 1-1), home against No. 20 Utah (4-0, 2-0) and then at No. 6 Washington (5-0, 2-0). 

The Cougars will be a different animal than any team UO has faced this season. WSU is averaging 41 points per game compared to 27.8 for Cal and 32.6 for Arizona State, which won 37-35 over Oregon. 

WSU senior quarterback Luke Falk has passed for 1,718 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions. 

"I think our guys will be fired up about it," Taggart said of Falk. "Another great opportunity to go against a guy like that."

Oregon leads the conference with 20 sacks so the Ducks should be able to get after Falk a bit. The problem is that WSU has allowed five sacks and runs a very quick passing offense. 
"It's going to be important that we get to the quarterback because they are dangerous," Taggart said.

On the other side, Oregon must contend with a WSU defense that ranks second in the PAC-12 in total offense (275.2 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (20.2). How UO puts up enough points against WSU to keep pace with its offense without Herbert is something Taggart is going to have to figure out.  

It won't be easy. But at least he entered the week in a good mood and with a positive attitude. 
---
Oregon vs. Washington State
When: 5 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium. 
T.V.: FOX. 
Betting line: Oregon minus 2.
Records: Oregon (4-1, 1-1PAC-12), WSU (5-0, 2-0).
Last week: WSU won 30-27 over USC (4-1, 2-1). Oregon defeated Cal, 45-24.
Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (44-46, 4-1 at Oregon); WSU's Mike Leach (118-77, 22-25 at WSU).
Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. This is a bad matchup for UO all the way around, especially with Herbert out. We will find out if the Ducks' defense is truly good or if it has been living off of playing bad offenses. There is zero reason to believe that the Ducks can keep pace with WSU's offense. 
Final pick: WSU 41, Oregon, 27. 

Taggart praises student section for energizing team against Cal

Taggart praises student section for energizing team against Cal

Oregon coach Willie Taggart said today that he hopes the Autzen Stadium crowd, especially the student section, will provide a boost for the Ducks on Saturday when they host No. 11 Washington State. 

Taggart said UO fans helped the Ducks overcome the glut of injuries that befell his team during a 45-24 win Saturday over California. Now, Taggart is hoping for the same type of fan support when UO faces a much better opponent in WSU (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12), team that will be a challenge for Oregon to defeat minus sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert, out 4-to-6 weeks with a fractured collarbone.

"I thought our student section was awesome," Taggart said of Saturday night. "They were rockin' and rollin' and swag surfin'. I really think that helped our guys in that football game considering all of the injuries and things that happened. I think that really gave them some extra energy to go out there and finish that ball game. That was great to see. It was a great environment to be a part of. "

Oregon (4-1, 1-1) saw Herbert, running back Royce Freeman, wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, backup quarterback Taylor Alie and inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu all go out with injuries during the game. But the team still managed to win despite Cal (3-2, 1-1) transforming a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter into a 24-17 deficit in the second half. 

The Cougars, led by senior quarterback Luke Falk, will be the best team Oregon has faced this season. 

"We're going to need (the fans) this week," Taggart said.

Ducks overcome adversity, face uncertain future

Ducks overcome adversity, face uncertain future

EUGENE - The Oregon Ducks stared adversity in the face Saturday night and didn't falter. They barely even blinked. They simply found a way to win, and did so convincingly, 45-24 over California at Autzen Stadium. 

The victory did come with a heavy injury toll, however. Starting quarterback Justin Herbert will miss at least a couple of games with a broken collarbone. Still, the night might have provided another peak into something positive to be found within this team. The young Ducks (4-1, 1-1 PAC-12) remain quite flawed but they don't quit.  Not when Arizona State last week took a 31-14 lead in the third quarter and not on Saturday when players began going down left and right from injuries. 

The carnage could have been enough to cause most teams to collapse, as did the 2015 Ducks during the Alamo Bowl debacle two seasonsago. Not this year's team. These Ducks kept their heads up, backups rose to the occasion and UOs pulled through. 

"I realized that this team cares about each other," UO coach Willie Taggart said. "I think what we're all seeing right now is a team that enjoys playing for one another."

Senior running back Royce Freeman left the game first with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after making a nice cut outside to the right for 13 yards early in the first quarter with Oregon leading 3-0. That drive ended with Herbert throwing a 37-yards touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Brenden Schooler to give the Ducks a 10-0 lead.

Team sources say that Freeman's injury isn't all that serious and that he could return next wek against No. 11 Washington State (5-0).  Taggart said during his post game press conference that Freeman told him that he should be okay. 

Minutes after Freeman went down, sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell went out with an undisclosed injury while returning a punt when UO safety Fotu T. Leiato II doubled back to blast a Cal player only to miss his mark and instead drill an unsuspecting Mitchell.

The ensuing drive ended with Herbert rushing for a seven-yard touchdown to give the Ducks a 17-0 lead. On the play, Herbert was violently tackled as he fell into the end zone. Team trainers attended to him on the sideline before he left the field with what multiple team sources say is a broken collarbone that will sideline him for at least a few weeks.

Oregon entered the game minus senior wide receiver Charles Nelson (ankle), redshirt sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland, freshman safety Nick Pickett (knee) and senior inside linebacker A.J. Hotchkins (ankle). 

After Herbert went out, the Ducks' offense took a nap. After gaining 159 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Ducks managed just 32 in the second quarter. Cal (3-2, 0-2) finally scored and make it 17-7 at halftime. Suddenly, a once seemingly sure victory became precarious for UO.

The Ducks figured things out by the second half, found their resolve and turned the game over to the offensive line and the defense.

"You just have to really just keep going and try not to skip a beat," redshirt sophomore center Jake Hanson said. "It seemed like everyone was going down."

Cal trailed 24-17 early in the fourth quarter before the defense really clamped down. Oregon held Cal to eight yards rushingfor the game, sacked Golden Bears quarterback Ross Bowers seven times and had 11 tackles for loss. 

"With everybody dropping like that we just figred, hey, we're losing people but somebody has to step up," junior defensive end Jalen Jelks said.  

The offense rushed for 126 yards in the third quarter alone and would end up with 308 on the day. Running well became a must after Herbert went out.

"It was good to see our offense able to run the football like we did," Taggart said. "That was important. That was an emphasis for us."

Senior running back Kani Benoit rushed for a career-high 138 yards and scored on a 68-yard run to give the Ducks a 31-17 lead with 9:51 remaining in the game. 

"I don't think anyone waivered at all," Benoit said about Herbert going down. "We knew what we were going to do and we know we could execute it."

A sack of Bowers by Oregon outside linebacker Justin Hollins led to a fumble that the Ducks recovered inside the Golden Bears' 5-yard line. That led to a five-yard touchdown run by redshirt sophomore Tony Brooks-James to pretty much ice the game at 38-17 with 8:01 remaining. 

Oregon showed flashes of heart during a 42-35 win over Nebraska when the defense held on for the win after the offense struggled and the Cornhuskers came back from a 42-14 halftime deficit. Last week at ASU, the Ducks looked awful in the first half before coming back to take a 35-34 lead after training 31-14 in the second half. 

But the Ducks were unable to hang on and lost 37-35. 

On Saturday, UO did lead all game and Cal doesn't have a very good offense. Still, the Ducks entered the game with several key players out and watched three more impact players leave the game. Yet, somehow the Ducks managed to find a way to win. 

Some caveats exist. Oregon committed 10 turnovers for 110 yards with most coming in the second half. One penalty negated a long Brooks-James reception on a pass in the third quarter from senior back up quarterback Taylor Alie before he also go injured in the fourth quarter.

Also, Oregon's defense feasted on a very mediocre Cal offense that entered the game averaging 28 points. The Ducks next face a Washington State team averaging 41. 

Finally, despite finding a way to run well and win this game the Ducks will be hard-pressed to use that formula to win many of the upcoming five games on the schedule without Herbert. 

Alie, should he return, is very limited as a passer. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 41 yards against Cal. Freshman Braxton Burmeister, who replaced Alie when he went down, is a mystery but shouldn't be expected to replace Herbert. 

After WSU, the Ducks play at No. 24 Stanford (3-2, 2-1), at UCLA (3-2, 1-1), home against No. 20 Utah (4-0, 2-0) and then at No. 6 Washington (5-0, 2-0). 

The Ducks will need to be strong on offense to defeat any of those opponents. Unless Alie or Burmeister suddenly prove they can pass for 275 yards and multiple touchdowns in a single game, defeating any of the next five opponents is going to be quite difficult. Just don't tell Oregon that. The Ducks believe in themselves too much to listen to what they can't do. 

After Saturday's game, the team could be heard celebrating in the locker room. That level of enthusiasm will be needed if Oregon is going to able to ride up these difficult injuries. 

"We always say around here, 'winning is living' and I think that's what you heard in there," Taggart said. "It can't stop."

SOURCES: UO QB Justin Herbert breaks collarbone

SOURCES: UO QB Justin Herbert breaks collarbone

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert suffered a broken collarbone while rushing for a touchdown in the first quarter of Saturday night's 45-24 win over California, according to multiple sources. 

The injury occured near the right-handed quarterback's left shoulder and according to a source is not considered to be season-ending. 

Herbert scored on a seven-yard run to give the Ducks (4-1) a 17-0 lead with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter.

Following the scoring play, trainers attended to Herbert's left shoulder on the sideline before he walked out of the stadium and toward the locker room. Broken collarbones can take from between four and eight weeks to heal depending on the severity of the break. If fractured, Herbert would probably be done for the season. If it's a hairline break, he could return in as little as a few weeks. He did not appear to be in serious pain following the injury and as he walked off the field.  

The injury occurred shortly after senior running back Royce Freeman headed to the locker room after it appeared that he injured himself also somewhere around the shoulder area. He also did not return to the game but his injury is said to not be that serious and he could return as soon as Saturday when the Ducks hosts No. 16 Washington State (5-0), which upset No. 5 USC on Friday night. 

Oregon coach Willie Taggart offered no details about his players' injuries during his postgame press conference. However, rumors began circulating immediately following the game that Herbert had indeed broken his collarbone. Several sources close to the team told CSN that they were hearing that Herbert had suffered a break. Official team sources confirmed the news later. 

Herbert finished the day 7 of 8 for 86 yards for one touchdown. 

Compounding the problem at quarterback is that redshirt senior backup Taylor Alie, who replaced Herbert, ended up leaving the game in the fourth carry after getting injured on a running play after he had completed 9 of 13 passes for 41 yards.

That led to Taggart going to freshman quarterback Braxton Brumeister to finish the game. He completed his lone pass attempt for four yards. 

Sources say that Alie's injury isn't serious. That's good news because if he were out the Ducks would be down two just Burmeister and walk-on freshman Mike Irwin out of Lakeridge High School. 

Oregon entered last spring with a very deep group of quarterbacks that included redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr.  However, Wilson elected to transfer in April during spring drills and in the summer Jonsen left the team leaving Oregon with Herbert and Burmeister, who enrolled at Oregon early enough to participate in spring practices. 

The loss of Jonsen and Wilson forced Taggart to move Alie from wide receiver to quarterback. Alie went to Oregon as a quarterback and in 2015 appeared in games, along with Jeff Lockie, after starter Vernon Adams Jr. injured the index finger on his throwing hand.

In 2016, the Ducks moved Alie and Lockie to wide receiver and went with senior graduate transfer Dakota Prukop, Herbert, Wilson and Jonsen. Herbert took over the starting job week 6 against Washington and threw 19 touchdown passes the rest of the way.  

(more later). 

It's hard enough to keep QBs healthy these days without asking them to run the ball

It's hard enough to keep QBs healthy these days without asking them to run the ball

OK, I don't pretend to know a whole lot about football. Unlike baseball and basketball, I never coached it.

But I do have a tip for young offensive coordinators who weren't even born when I started watching college football. I mean, this is just a tip built on what I've seen over the last several decades of watching games. Take it or leave it:

If you have a quarterback who can throw the ball, maybe even a quarterback considered a blue-chip NFL prospect, TAKE THAT OPTION PACKAGE OUT OF YOUR OFFENSE, PUT IT IN THE TRUNK OF AN OLD JUNK CAR AND RUN IT INTO A VERY DEEP RIVER!

Guys, it's hard enough to keep a quarterback healthy and upright these days without asking him to carry the ball 10-15 times a game. You know better than I do that defenses are going to see a target on his back -- a way to take your most important player away from you. I've written about this kind of thing before and I usually get a bunch of people telling me, "You can't put bubble wrap around these guys. It's football and people get hurt."

Yeah, they do. But why increase the chances of that happening? My goodness, even big strong, tank-like running backs like Royce Freeman have trouble getting through a season without an injury. Most quarterbacks just aren't built to withstand the pounding. Nor should they have to take that abuse. They're too important.

And honestly, it's possible to run an effective offense without some sort of option that includes the quarterback running the ball. Take a look at your TV on Sunday -- the pros have no trouble doing it.

Oregon lost two quarterbacks Saturday night and obviously, Justin Herbert is going to be impossible for them to replace. For what? A short run to the end zone that any one of three or four Duck running backs could have accomplished?

It made me sick to see Herbert hurt on such a play. What a waste. The guy's future is NOT as a runner. His team's future is not with him running the ball. You CAN get along without that play and the entire option attack -- particularly if your offensive line is as good as people say it is. But you can't get along without Herbert -- at least not nearly as well.

And don't get me wrong, it's not just the Ducks who do this. It's a virus all over college football.

No, you can't put bubble wrap around your quarterback. But you can ask him not to run the ball unless he has to AVOID getting tackled. And don't play him with a big lead late in games, either.

Because he's that valuable -- and you're soon going to find that out.

WATCH: Rapid reaction- Ducks win, but at what cost?

WATCH: Rapid reaction- Ducks win, but at what cost?

The Oregon Ducks rebounded with a win Saturday at Autzen Stadium, but it came with a cost. 

As the Ducks improved to 4-1 with a 45-24 victory over Califoria (3-2), they saw senior running back Royce Freeman and sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert leave the game in the first quarter with injuries. Neither returned to action. 

Walk-on quarterback Mike Irwin would have likely played had freshman Braxton Burmeister gone down after he replaced backup Taylor Alie, injured in the fourth quarter. 

BOX SCORE

Stay tuned for injury updates and more throughout the evening. 

UO's Herbert and Freeman leave Cal game during 1st QTR

UO's Herbert and Freeman leave Cal game during 1st QTR

EUGENE - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman and sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert left the field and headed toward the locker room during the first quarter of tonight's game against California at Autzen Stadium. 

The pair never returned to the game.

Freeman gained 13 yards on a run to the right side and then immediately left the field favoring his shoulder.  A few plays later Herbert threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Schooler to give the Ducks a 10-0 lead. After the touchdown, Freeman could be seen walking out of the stadium. 

Freeman's return was originally announced as "questionable."

On Oregon's next drive, Herbert scored on a short run in which he got hit pretty hard by a Cal defender. The touchdown made the score 17-0, UO.  Shortly after scoring, Herbert could be seen walking through the tunnel toward the Ducks' locker room. 

Freeman left the game with 51 yards on six carries. 

Herbert is 7 of 8 for 86 yards for one touchdown. 

The Ducks led 17-7 at halftime but gained just 32 yards in the second quarter after amassing 159 in the first quarter. 

Oregon led 31-17 midway through the fourth quarter after senior running back Kani Benoit scored on a 68-yard run. 

SOURCES: UO WR Charles Nelson won't play tonight vs. Cal, return date unclear

SOURCES: UO WR Charles Nelson won't play tonight vs. Cal, return date unclear

Oregon senior wide receiver Charles Nelson will not play tonight when the Ducks (3-1) host California (3-1) at Autzen Stadium, according to sources. 

Nelson, who sprained his right ankle two weeks ago during UO's 49-13 win at Wyoming, missed last Saturday's 37-35 loss at Arizona State (2-3, lost today at Stanford) and was seen this week still wearing a walking boot. 

How long Nelson will be sidelined remains unclear, but indications are that his return is not imminent.

Oregon hosts No. 16 Washington State (5-0) next week.  The Cougars upset No. 5 USC last night by the score of 30-27. 

Oregon clearly missed Nelson last week at Arizona State. UO started sophomore Brenden Schooler in place of Nelson and he managed to catch just two passes for 27 yards. Regular starters, sophomore Dillon Mitchell and freshman Johnny Johnson III have been steady but neither has demonstrated the consistency and play-making ability that Nelson has delivered for four seasons with the Ducks. 

Nelson ranks second on the team with 15 receptions and first with 243 yards. 

Mitchell, Johnson and Schooler are not ideal slot receivers in coach Willie Taggart's offense. But freshman Darrian McNeal has struggled thus far and junior Taj Griffin only recently moved to receiver after coming to Oregon as a running back. Both are listed as Nelson's backups on Oregon's depth chart. 

Oregon's young receivers dropped several passes against the Sun Devils and at times ran routes incorrectly or were not aligned properly, all typical mistakes for young receivers. 

Nelson was clearly going to be a go-to receiver for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert and was on pace for to make roughly 60 receptions this season before his injury.