justin herbert

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Last week on Talkin' Ball we were fortunate enough to have great interviews with Gary Andersen and Willie Taggart. Yes, on the same show.

They were both very forthcoming about their teams but there was no way we could learn answers to what, for me, are the most pressing questions about Oregon State and Oregon:

What will they look like? How will they, you know, actually play? And we may not really know that until the early season, non-conference games are out of the way.

In the case of the Ducks, it's a new coaching staff with a quarterback who performed well last season as a freshman. Justin Herbert, at times, looked like a pro last year. He has great promise. But how will he be used this season? Taggart has employed a lot of option in the past and will he run Herbert? It's always interesting when a new coaching staff comes in to see how players might be used differently or more effectively than they were by the previous regime.

The Ducks have their usual stable of great running backs and I'd assume, given their shortage of receivers, they'll be run heavy, at least early in the season. But who knows? Herbert can really sling it and those runners will set up some great play-action opportunities.

The same questions are even more relevant with the Beavers. Oregon State will be going with a quarterback, Jake Luton, who is by all accounts a pro-style, big-arm guy who is much different than what Andersen has had at OSU. Will the Beavers open it up more? I'm not sure, because they also have some outstanding running backs capable of controlling games on the ground.

How will these guys play? What will they look like? What will their style be? Will they be gamblers or play it safe? What will they become known for?

It's the most intriguing thing about the upcoming season at both schools.

Oregon WR Dillon Mitchell must shine

Oregon WR Dillon Mitchell must shine

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell won't be able to shake the weight of expectations this season. Not with his immense talent. Not with the loss of senior Darren Carrington Jr.  And not with the team's need for someone, anyone, to emerge as a major threat in the passing game. 

"There's been pressure put on my shoulders," Mitchell said. "But I'm still just playing the game I love. People can expect a lot from me." 

Oregon's decision to move sophomore Brenden Schooler to wide receiver to bolster depth there could prove to be a shrewd move. But it won't matter much if Mitchell doesn't realize his potential. 

Coach Willie Taggart's dismissal of Carrington from the team following his DUII arrest eliminated that best player from an already thin group. Senior Charles Nelson is one of the premiere slot receivers in the Pac-12, if not the country. After Nelson, UO's returning wide receivers last season caught all of three passes for 17 yards. 

Two of those catches, going for a total of nine yards, belonged to Mitchell, who in 2016 was buried on a depth chart behind a very deep group. Gone are Carrington, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford and Jalen Brown, who transferred despite having a strong chance to start in 2017. 

But while Mitchell, a four-star recruit last season and 17th-rated receiver in the nation, didn't play all that much last season, he did, by all accounts, display elite potential during practices, which was one of the reasons why he didn't redshirt. 

"I’m just waiting on this season to showcase what I’ve always been doing,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell wasn't excited to see Carrington, his mentor, leave the program. 

“When I first got here he was the first person to talk to me,” Mitchell said. “He was the first person to show interest in me. He taught me how to be a college football player."

Mitchell called Carrington, "a big brother."

“He had a lot of mistakes but he also did a lot of good things that people will never see,” Mitchell said.

Carrington was the team's best big-play threat. His combination of speed, ability, leaping ability and ball skills made him unique on this roster. Mitchell possesses similar talents, and, if he develops, could lessen the sting of losing Carrington. 

According to Mitchell, he has spent extensive time working out with Herbert during the offseason to improve their chemistry, and he's been working on fine-tuning the craft of route-running. 

“I want to become a more creative wide receiver and try things that haven’t been tried before,” he said. 

But doing in practice and doing on game days are two different things. Taggart is hopeful Mitchell will be the guy on Saturdays that he's seen in practice. One aspect of Mitchell that Taggart has noticed is coming along is that he is becoming more of an extrovert as his confidence has grown. 

“I think he’s coming out of his shell,” Taggart said. “He was very similar to Justin (Herbert).  Just a quiet guy and go about his business. But now you see him smiling and talking and being excited to go."

 

Oregon's QB situation behind Justin Herbert is precarious at best

Oregon's QB situation behind Justin Herbert is precarious at best

EUGENE - If Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert were to go down this season, it's a wrap. Season over. Thanks for coming. See you next year. 

All thanks to Travis Jonsen. 

While most teams would suffer from the loss of its starting quarterback, the Ducks enter this season in worse shape behind their starter than they were from 2013 through 2015. 

The Ducks have five quarterbacks on the roster. Well, one quarterback and four guys wearing red jerseys trying to become collegiate quarterbacks. Things are so precarious that freshman Demetri Burch, recruited as an athlete, is playing quarterback out of sheer necessity. 

Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Marcus Arroyo, when asked to describe the quarterback room simply stated, "minus Justin, inexperience. That's probably the best word."

There you have it. And let's not forget that Herbert is just a sophomore. How bad is the situation? Let's take a look (the following is not exactly a depth chart): 

1. Herbert, a potential phenom and sure-fire future NFL quarterback. 

2. Braxton Burmeister: A true freshman and four-star recruit who by all accounts is not going to be a freshman sensation like Herbert proved to be last season. 

3. Taylor Alie: A senior who played receiver last year and held for kicks after seeing some time at quarterback in 2015 after Vernon Adams Jr. went down with a broken finger. Completed six of 14 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. 

4. Mike Irwin: A walk-on from Lakeridge High School. 

5. Demetri Burch: An athletic, three-star recruit whose high school quarterback highlights consist mostly of running plays. He would likely be playing receiver if not for all of the uncertainty at quarterback. 

"We felt like he was doing some really nice things as a young guy in our room to build some depth," Arroyo said. 

Most teams don't ask a likely receiver to provide depth at quarterback when they already have four quarterbacks in place unless there is a feeling that those quarterbacks are iffy. 

Fortunately for Oregon, Herbert, listed at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, packed on about 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason. Knocking him out of games won't be easy.

But things happen. When Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury in 2007, the Ducks turned to senior Brady Leaf, a very capable backup. But, he went down as well and the Ducks' national title hopes went kaput. 

In 2015, the Ducks endured a rotation of Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie after Adams went down with a broken finger. The results were not pretty. Three of Oregon's four losses came in games Adams did not finish or didn't start. The finale was the blown 31-point lead to TCU in the Alamo Bowl in which Adams left the game with a concussion late in the second quarter.

Oregon hopes that Burmeister will create a situation like the Ducks had with Joey Harrington and A.J. Feeley (1999-2000), Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens (2002-2003), Clemens and Dixon (2004-2005), Darron Thomas and Bryan Bennett (2011) and Benett and Marcus Mariota (2012). 

The 2012 duo was the last time the Ducks had security at the backup quarterback position until last year when Herbert emerged to become the starter with senior Dakota Prukop relegated to backup duties. 

That brings us back to Jonsen. New Oregon coach Willie Taggart hoped the redshirt sophomore would embrace competing with Herbert and remain on the team to at least provide a strong backup. But the former four-star recruit saw the writing on the wall and it read, "Herbert = superstar," so he bounced to a junior college in hopes of latching on to a big time program in the future. 

Jonsen's departure has set Oregon up for potential disaster.  One could also point to redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr.'s decision to transfer during the spring. 

It's tough to keep quality quarterbacks around to sit as backups. Bennett lasted just one year as Mariota's backup before leaving to become the starter at Southeastern Louisiana.

Oregon's 2018 recruiting class is loaded. Missing, however, is a quarterback. Taggart might want to sign two. 

A lot of the predicted doom and gloom depends no only on if Herbert were to get injured by when? If it were to happen later in the season, the Ducks by then might have developed an adequate backup. Although some are saying that Alie is ahead of Burmeister at this point, maybe in two months the freshman would be ready to play solidly within a watered-down game plan.

Justin Roper in 2007 developed nicely over time after Dixon went down and won the Sun Bowl. 

But as it stands now, the Ducks' area of greatest need might be to find someone capable of guiding the ship should something happen to its captain. 

Ducks' WR Charles Nelson must be Justin Herbert's security blanket

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USA Today

Ducks' WR Charles Nelson must be Justin Herbert's security blanket

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert will frequently be looking for a reliable receiver he can count on when times get tough this season. A target who will get open on time, in the right spot and make the catch, even tough catches should a pass be a bit off target. 

That receiver will be senior slot Charles Nelson. 

“He can do it all,” Herbert said. “I think we’re going to try to get him the ball as much as possible because he’s one of the fastest guys around. He’s a playmaker.”

Nelson is also the only receiver on the team with a proven track record of success. The elimination of senior Darren Carrington Jr. from the mix following his arrest for DUII - he transferred to Utah - thrust Nelson into the No. 1-receiver role where he must produce and help teach a slew of young receivers. 

“I just feel like I have to be more of a mentor for these guys,” he said.

Nelson's career has come full circle. In 2014 he was the lone true freshman receiver in the mix for playing time on a team with little experience at the position after Bralon Addison was lost for the year with a knee injury during spring practices. Fast forward four years later and Nelson finds himself as the lone senior receiver on a team with little experience at the position. 

Gone are six of Oregon's top seven wide receiver/tight end targets from last season. Nelson finished second in receptions with 52 for 554 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland was 10th with six grabs for 123 yards.

Consequently, the Ducks will rely on the rapid development of sophomore Dillon Mitchell (two receptions last year), redshirt sophomore Alex Ofodile (one reception last year), redshirt sophomore Malik Lovette (played cornerback last season), sophomore Brenden Schooler (started 10 games at safety last year, moved to receiver last week), and a host of freshmen receivers led by Darrian McNeal, who had a solid spring. 

Considering that Nelson started eight games at safety in 2015, the Ducks return almost as much collegiate defensive back experience at the receiver position as they do receiving experience. Oregon is hoping for a repeat of 2014 when the team returned just one receiver, Keanon Lowe, with more than 200 yards receiving in 2013.  

That 2014 season turned out just fine. The Ducks saw Nelson, Carrington, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford and Byron Marshall (who moved from running back because of a lack of receive depth) all explode as targets for quarterback Marcus Mariota. 

“Back then Keanon was the only guy with experience," Nelson said. "We ended up being one of the best receiving groups in the country and I feel like we can do that with this unit right here.”

For that to happen, Nelson must set the tone for the younger players on field, in the weight room and the meeting room. 

“Charles has been a great leader for us by showing us how it’s done,” Mitchell said.

Herbert has witnessed Nelson the leader in action: “He’s already done a great job with that. He’s already stepped up and put some of them under his wing.”

Oregon coach Willie Taggart said Nelson has taken it upon himself to act as big brother to the younger receivers. 

“We just told Charles to be Charles,” Taggart said. “We’re not going to ask guys to be more than they have to. With Charles, we didn’t ask him to do anything. I think he’s taken it upon himself to be that guy.”

More importantly, Nelson needs to be that guy Herbert can rely on to make plays. 

Oregon Football now a family after Taggart's courses in team chemistry

Oregon Football now a family after Taggart's courses in team chemistry

EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart relishes team unity. Watching players who at one time barely knew one another talking, sharing and laughing it up while eating in the team cafeteria brings a smile to his face. 

So does venturing into the weight room to see players encouraging and competing with one another while working to improve. And, noticing players who in the past would leave the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex all alone now strolling off in groups.

“To sit back and watch that I get goose bumps,” Taggart said. “This is how it’s supposed to be.”

The Ducks, who began fall camp on Monday, having seemingly erased the issue of team fracturing that impacted last year's 4-8 season. Team chemistry and bonding have returned to the 2014 levels when the Ducks last won the Pac-12 championship and advance to the national title game. 

Two years of erosion in those departments certainly contributed to the program's downfall. Taggart, when hired last December, set out to fix the fragile mess with a cocktail of team bonding endeavors he hoped would create an atmosphere that encouraged togetherness away from the field that would translate into better play on game days. Players and coaches hang out together more often, engage in the same leisurely activities and enjoy spirited yet playful ribbing. 

“It’s so important that our guys come together, and enjoy being around each other, and love each other,” Taggart said. “I think training camp is a time where we continue to build that so once we get to the fall guys go out and play for one another.”

-- Friends first -- 

Taggart's energy inspires and influences. He seeks out his players. Welcomes them into his office. He wants to be in their presence. He wants them to seek him out, not fear him. The result is that players feel more comfortable about their place on the team beyond executing the Xs and Os of football. 

“He’s always around us,” Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert said. “When we’re weightlifting at six in the morning, he’s there. He’s fired up. He’s cheering guys on. When were running outside he’s out there. All of the coaches are around. Everyone is just super excited to be around him.”

The team responds to his inviting personality. 

“He radiates energy,” redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Shane Lemieux said. “The whole coaching staff does that.”

The team, including the coaching staff, will spend the first week of fall camp living in dorms in order to further their bond. Team activities away from football are rarely ever limited to players only. 

“Coach Taggart says that everywhere we have to be, the coaches have to be as well,” sophomore linebacker Troy Dye said. "“One of the things he has preached is team chemistry and buying in to being a family."

One of Taggart's mottos is to "have a great day if you want to." He implores his players to have fun. He wants football to be enjoyable. Not feel like a job. So he attempts to structure team activities around enjoying life and one another. He sought men with similar personalities while building his coaching staff. 

“I think this staff is just so excited to be here and they have done a good job of being around us and taking care of us," Herbert said. "I’m really excited to play for them.”

Players feeling comfortable around the staff allows for greater levity and, consequently, a better opportunity for team bonding. Plus, Taggart's lust for life can be infectious. 

“He’s a really enthusiastic person,” senior left tackle Tyrell Crosby said of Taggart. “Young coach. Brings that southern vibe. That Florida vibe. Has a lot of energy.”

-- Like uncles at a barbecue -- 

The coaching staff is relatively young, especially compared to the previous staff. It's not surprising then that they relate well to the modern athlete. So much so that there plenty of teasing and joking around that flows from coaches to players and players to coaches.    

“It’s like having your uncle at a barbecue,” Dye said. “You respect them like hell but at the end of the day you can have fun, joke with them and crack jokes and have fun with them.”

Nobody is safe. Players say that Taggart and the other coaches will crack jokes about players without warning. Shoes. Clothes. Hair. Video game prowess. Not much is off limits. Many players battle back. 

“You can’t just let him get on top of you, or take advantage of you," Dye said. "You’ve got to get a couple back here or there.”

Dye said Taggart has few glaring flaws to attack. 

“You can’t really talk about his swag,” Dye said. “He has the best swag in the nation. He has a new pair of shoes on every day.”

But Taggart has some weaknesses. 

“It’s kind of hard to find things to get on him about but at times we can find something if he’s slacking with his shirt or his shorts, or something,” Dye said. “If he is ashy.”

Taggart's periodic failures to apply lotion on his dry legs aside adds to the banter. 

“It’s fun to have coaches like that that you can joke around with,” redshirt junior defensive end Jalen Jelks said.

But there is a line. 

“You can’t go too crazy," Dye said. "It is the head man. You’ve got to know your limitations.”

Nelson said the give and take creates a better coach-player bond. 

“It's built more of a connection,” Nelson said. “You don’t want a coach who just tells you what you can and can’t do. You want a coach that’s going to laugh with you, joke with you. Just build more of a friendship.”

The team soundtrack that blares in the weight room and during practices has changed, as well. 

“He’s just young and he can relate to us,” senior cornerback Arrion Springs said. “He likes rap music. We don’t have to listen to 80s rock music during practice anymore."

-- Players know where lines are drawn -- 

The player's coach approach only works when discipline has taken hold. Taggart, when hired, spelled out what he expected: Be good students. Good citizens. And, of course, good football players. Failing in two of those areas could lead to dismissal from the football team. 

Taggart sent a message to the team by letting go of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. following his DUII arrest July 1. 

“He’s going to tell you the truth,” senior wide receiver Charles Nelson said. “He’s going to tell you straight up, ‘this is what I want. This is how we’re going to do it.' And if you don’t like it then you don’t have to be on this team.”

Said Crosby: “When it’s business time, they are all business. When it’s not business time, they know how to have fun. They really allow us to enjoy our time here."

The sense of accountability, respect and trust - all missing at times last season - have created better team leaders. That has led to a greater team connection, according to Lemieux. 

Taggart said he noticed while watching game video from last season that it didn't appear like players were playing for the man next to them. That, the team hopes, will change with greater team bonding. 

“He has taught our team to be more accountable and more accountable for each other," Lemieux said. "There’s stronger leadership roles within our football team now. We’ve all taken it upon us to be a better individual to make the team stronger."

-- HDC is the place to be -- 

Vibrant coaches. Team camaraderie. Renewed energy following a 4-8 season. Each has helped make the team's facility the hot spot for the Ducks.  

Taggart encourages the players to spend as much time at the HDC as possible. Working. Bonding. 

“People love to come to the facility now,” Dye said. “You can just feel the energy.”

Said Jelks: "He just makes us feel like we’re at home."

At times in the recent past, going to the HDC felt like a job for some players. Now, the $68 million facility feels like the team hub. 

“You don’t want to feel like you’re a prisoner in the building,” sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell said. “You don’t want to feel like you’re made to come to the HDC everyday. Taggart and the rest of the coaches make you want to show your face around the building to see them.”

The Ducks appear to have become a closer-knit group and the staff has helped create that. But soon it will be time to perform on the field. Team unity is easier to achieve when winning. How the Ducks react to adversity will be the real test. But for now, the Ducks believe they have at least formed a bond they hope will help them overcome any obstacles on the field. 

“If you can trust a guy off the field," Dye said, "and really get to know him as a person, as an individual, you can really trust him and know that he’s going to be there for you on the field."

Oregon Ducks out to prove the doubters wrong

Oregon Ducks out to prove the doubters wrong

EUGENE - Oregon senior cornerback Arrion Springs had some misinformation. He knew the results of the Pac-12 media poll released during media days last week had the Ducks finishing fourth. He just didn't realize that meant fourth in the North Division.

“I thought it was fourth in the Pac-12,” Springs said Sunday during Oregon's media day at Autzen Stadium. “Wow. Fourth in the North? That’s kind of sad, that’s real sad. But I guess they had to do that based off last year.”

Yes, they kind of did. And although such predictions aren't worth much more than the paper they are written on, the reality that those who follow the conference the closest have such a low opinion of these Ducks, 4-8 last season, is telling. 

Few are buying that new coach Willie Taggart will return this program to its championship ways in year one, which begins today with the team's first fall practice. Not many believe sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert and senior running back Royce Freeman can compensate for a defense that finished 128th in the nation last season. And don't try to sell the idea that new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt can in one year elevate said defense to championship levels. 

For the first time in a decade, few believe the Ducks are championship contenders of any kind. Yet, Oregon's players are mostly concerned with how they view themselves. 

“It hurts to be ranked fourth like that,” redshirt sophomore guard Shane Lemieux said. “It’s basically kind of like a slap in the face. But at the same time a lot of us don’t care.”

The Ducks are embracing the underdog role. 

“I think we’ve kind of had that mentality that we’re just going to try to surpass the expectations,” Herbert said. 

Not having a target on the team's back could prove to be a bonus, according to sophomore linebacker Troy Dye, and it's something he sees Taggart using to fuel the team's energy. 

“You have no expectations," Dye said. "So you can go out there and play every game like it’s your last and just try to take somebody’s season away and build on top of yours.”

Springs agrees: "It’s great.  For the first time we don’t have any expectations. We can’t do anything but go up.”

What's truly realistic for this team? Could the Ducks overcome Washington State to finish third? Probably. But is it realistic to believe that Oregon could pull off upsets at Stanford and/or defending champion Washington to truly contend? 

Oregon certainly believes so. 

“Guys won’t settle for being fourth,” senior left tackle Tyrell Crosby said. “We want better.”

It's all a matter of believing in the process.

“At the end of the day we’re going to end up with the Pac-12 title if we just follow the course,” Dye said. “So we don’t really care about what people project.”

Senior wide receiver Charles Nelson said last season won't impact the team's mentality regarding 2017. 

“We feel like every other team does,” he said. “Every other team feels like they’re the best and we feel like we’re the best.”

Redshirt junior running back Tony Brooks-James took things a step further.

“I see this team at the very least winning the Pac-12 but at the maximum going all the way,” Brooks-James said.

All the way as in to the national title game. That prediction might be a tad out there, but why not?

“We did have a really bad year last year," Lemieux said. "But this is a totally different team, a totally different coaching staff and a totally different atmosphere.”

The reality is that very few players remain that had an impact on the 2014 team, which won the Pac-12 and reached the national title game. Maybe, in the end, it's best that the newer Ducks aren't treated as if they had already accomplished what their predecessors had. 

“It’s good for a lot of new guys,” Springs said. “Most of these guys weren't on the championship team. So, it’s all new for them. They are really just trying to prove themselves.”

And, prove the doubters wrong. 

Utah players welcome former Oregon WR Darren Carrington Jr.

Utah players welcome former Oregon WR Darren Carrington Jr.

HOLLYWOOD, Cal. - Utah defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi has a message for new Utes' wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr.:

The whole thing about him catching that 17-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining during Oregon's 30-28 upset win last season at Rice Eccles-Stadium - don't go there. 

"I'm excited to get him," Mokofisi said Thursday during Pac-12 Media Days. Then, with a smile, he added: "Obviously that (touchdown play) hurt. And he can't talk about it. At all. I haven't met him yet, but Darren, if you're watching, you can't talk about it at all."

Carrington could make up for that play by making similar plays for the Utes this season. He is reportedly in the process of transferring to Utah after Oregon coach Willie Taggart dismissed him from the Ducks following a DUII arrest on July 1. 

Losing Carrington, who caught 112 career passes for 1,919 yards and 15 touchdowns during his career at Oregon and would have been the Ducks' No. 1 receiver this season, will hurt the Ducks' receiver depth. 

Utah is willing to take the chance that Carrington can put his checkered past behind him for four months, motivated by the fact that his NFL Draft stock has been sinking like a rock since he tested positive for marijuana prior to the 2015 national championship game, leading to a six-game suspension. 

A strong season for Carrington could help him recoup some of the future NFL money he has undoubtedly squandered with his antics. Such a performance could also help Utah, which will play at Oregon on Oct. 28. 

"We're all about second chances," Mokofisi. "We've had a lot of players in the past that have that. So, I feel like we'll be fine."

"I think we will do a great job embracing him as a player and as a person," Utah offensive tackle Salesi Uhatafe added. 

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said accepting Carrington onto his team wasn't an easy decision. 

"It's always a tough decision when you're talking about a player that you're going to add to your program that potentially has a checkered past," he said. "You have to make a decision based on all the information you can gather. Based on the athlete's attitude. You know, is he remorseful? Does he understand that he's done some stupid things and ready to put it behind him and move on? There is so much that goes into it. It's a judgment call. You're not always right. But I feel in this case it was the right thing to do to give Darren another opportunity."

According to Whittingham, Carrington is on campus but not yet cleared to practice as he goes through the transfer process. Once completed, Whittingham said Carrington would be on a "short leash."

"He's a terrific talent on the field," Whittingham said. "One of the common denominators that came back from all the people I talked to about Darren was his fierce, competitive drive on the field, on the practice field. He's just a guy that is the ultimate competitor. Brings a toughness to that receiver position that will help us out."

Whittingham said he spent a lot of time talking to Carrington and his parents about what he must do to succeed at Utah. 

"You know, it was very apparent that he'll be the first to admit that he's done some dumb things, made some bad decisions," Whittingham said. "But he's got the right attitude right now. He's bound and determined to put this behind him, move forward. Try to have a successful senior year, and then hopefully have a chance to move on to the next level."

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert might be the most impacted by the departure of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. 

But Herbert said he is standing by coach Willie Taggart's decision to remove Carrington from the team following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1

"I think Darren has moved on and we have too," Herbert said. "We have a lot of great receivers still on the roster, so we're going to get those guys ready and let them make plays."

Carrington would have been the team's unchallenged No. 1 receiver. Now he will look to do damage with Utah after transferring there this week. Taggart warned the team when he took over in December that breaking rules would have consequences. Following through with Carrington, who has a track record of sketchy behavior, reinforced that mantra. 

"I don't know if he was trying to send a message," Herbert said. "He's a man of his word. He's the leader of this team. He's the head guy. We've just got to listen to him because he knows what he's talking about."

Herbert said he is confident in the pass catchers that remain, starting with senior slot Charles Nelson. 

"Charles is going to be a huge name this year," Herbert said.

The man to likely replace Carrington on the outside will be sophomore Dillon Mitchell, who last season caught one pass for nine yards. 

"He's going to be a great receiver," Herbert said. 

Nelson and Mitchell won't hardly be enough. Oregon has a history of seeing receivers get injured. Depth will be a concern unless younger players rise to the occasion. 

"But I think the main focus is getting the younger guys ready," Herbert said. "They gotta get the offense down and just have timing with them and gain confidence with them."

Freshman on the spot will be Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III and Darrian McNeal, who might have earned a spot in the rotation during spring drills after arriving early to campus. Redshirt sophomore Malik Lovette could start now that Carrington is gone. 

"Fortunately we've had enough workouts where I think we have a lot of promising guys," Herbert said. 

Tight end depth will be an issue after losing three seniors, but the starting position should be fine with sophomore Jacob Breeland. 

"I know where he's going and he knows where I'm going," he said. "Just the entire year we've spent has been a huge bonus."

Despite the positive spin, losing Carrington's talent certainly will hurt. But losing the distraction he often brings could prove to be a blessing. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 4 - QB Braxton Burmeister

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 4 - QB Braxton Burmeister

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister.

Burmeister hadn't been scheduled to make this list before redshirt sophomore quarterback Travis Jonsen elected to transfer last week. In the blink of an eye, Brumeister went from a likely redshirt to No. 2 on the depth chart behind sophomore starter Justin Herbert. 

The backup quarterback typically receives zero attention during the season from fans and the media unless the starting quarterback goes down (or is benched). So, there is a strong chance that Burmeister will be largely out of sight and out of mind all season long. 

On the other hand, strange things happen within the sport of football making it a strong possibility that at some point Burmeister's services could be needed. 

Oregon had to rely on a backup quarterback because of injury in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2015. Marcus Mariota made every start from 2012 through 2014 but did experience a knee injury in 2013. 

Jonsen, according to coach Willie Taggart, had earned his confidence as a starting-caliber quarterback who at the very least could push Herbert for the starting job. With Jonsen competing with Herbert, the feeling at Oregon was that the top of the depth chart was loaded. Now, there will be some uncertainty about the backup spot entering fall camp.

Burmeister, a four-star recruit, looked like an inexperienced true freshman during the spring game, but he did display a strong arm to go along with excellent quickness and speed as a runner. How he develops over the summer and during fall camp will shape the level of confidence the coaching staff has in him as someone who could run the offense if needed. 

The Ducks certainly have many areas in need of new faces to deliver, and Burmeister could go the entire season without taking a meaningful snap. But because of the importance of the quarterback position, and that there is probably a 50/50 chance Herbert goes down for at least a series, a quarter, maybe a game, or two, Burmeister just became one of the most important young players on the team. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

QB Travis Jonsen's decision to transfer best for him, not for Oregon

QB Travis Jonsen's decision to transfer best for him, not for Oregon

The news that quarterback Travis Jonsen, who came to Oregon to become the next Marcus Mariota, will transfer only becomes an issue for the Ducks if starter Justin Herbert, who looks like the next Mariota, goes down and UO must turn to freshman Braxton Burmeister.

Unless, of course, Burmeister is the next Herbert.

Jonsen's decision, revealed yesterday, came as no big surprise. In fact, the most surprising aspect is that it took so long for the redshirt sophomore to pack up his locker and move on ten months after falling behind Herbert, and others, on the depth chart. 

Players want and expect to play. Especially quarterbacks, like Jonsen, once rated as the No. 3-dual threat prospect in the nation coming out of high school in 2015. He didn't go to Oregon to hold a clipboard and wear a headset. He went there to be the starter. 

Redshirt as a freshman? Fine.

Play the backup role for a year? Okay. 

Spend the next three seasons sitting behind a potential superstar like Herbert? No thanks!

The moment last fall when Herbert raced up the depth chart to become the backup to graduate transfer Dakota Prukop, Jonsen should have packed his bags. Adding insult to injury, Jonsen also fell behind true freshman Terry Wilson Jr., whom the Ducks planned to redshirt and did. 

The fact that Jonsen stayed, gutted it out and returned for spring drills is a testament to his commitment to try and make things work for the Ducks. Those criticizing him for running are being unfair. The window in life to play college football is brief and nobody remembers the faithful backup who wasted his talent on the sideline for the betterment of the team. 

New coach Willie Taggart, who took over for Mark Helfrich last December, offered a fresh start for all on the roster by stating that nobody had a guaranteed starting job. That opened the door for Jonsen to maybe seize the starting job away from Herbert. But Taggart had watched game video. He had seen Herbert throw for 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions over seven starts. Taggart watched Herbert throw for 489 yards against Arizona State and the six touchdowns thrown against California. 

Jonsen had, as well. Live. So had Wilson. Each had to have known that beating out Herbert was a long shot. Wilson got the hint sooner than Jonsen and left Oregon during spring drills. Jonsen held on two months longer before deciding that his best path to see the field would be to play a season at Riverside City College and then wait for offers from FBS programs looking for a transfer starter in 2018.

Jonsen could have picked the program last fall, transferred, sat out a year and now be eligible to play. However, now he can put together a body of work on the field at a level higher than high school and maybe entice more programs to seek his services.

Jonsen is leaving not because he couldn't cut it. Taggart has said he loves Jonsen's talent and believes he is a starting-caliber quarterback. But Herbert is simply more gifted and more proven. 

So where does this leave the Ducks? Well, let's say the situation is not dire but certainly not optimal. 

Oregon has been in this position before. 

In 2004, freshman quarterback Dennis Dixon beat out redshirt freshman Johnny DuRocher to earn the backup job behind junior Kellen Clemens. DuRocher transferred to Washington leaving the Ducks thin at quarterback. Oregon went 5-6 but Clemens never missed a start. 

In 2012, Mariota, then a redshirt freshman, beat out redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett, who immediately considered transferring. Had he done so, the Ducks would have had to rely on true freshmen, Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues to backup Mariota. Oregon avoided that potential hazard when then-coach Chip Kelly convinced Bennett to remain at UO for a season before he ultimately transferred to Southeastern Louisiana, where he proved dominant. 

Taggart couldn't work that same magic on Wilson or Jonsen and now finds himself with just two scholarship quarterbacks. Three if you count redshirt senior Taylor Alie, who saw action at quarterback in 2015 before being moved to wide receiver last fall.

Burmeister is the wild card in all of this. A 4-star recruit Taggart calls a football version of a "gym rat," Burmeister has put in countless hours of extra work on the field and in the film room.

If he is ahead of where Jonsen and Wilson were as true freshmen, the Ducks could be just fine if Herbert were to go down for a game or two.  

While Burmeister didn't shot much during the spring game in terms of throwing the ball accurately, he did display a live arm and very capable running skills that would serve him well in a spot start or two. 

Where things could become dicey is if Herbert went down for a lengthy period of time. In that situation, Jonsen could have stepped in and given the Ducks starting-caliber play, at least based on Taggart's view of his potential. 

Burmeister might be able to provide the same level of performance. He is just more of a mystery given that he has just 15 practices under his belt at the college level.

A downside to playing Burmeister at all is that Oregon would have to burn his redshirt. Ideally, Oregon could have sat him this season and created a two-year gap in eligibility status between him and Herbert. 

Another possibility at No. 3 behind Alie could be in-coming freshman athlete Bruce Judson, a four-star recruit out Cocoa High School in Cocoa, Fla.  He figures to play receiver at Oregon but did play quarterback in high school. 

But let's be real. Should Oregon be forced to dig that deep into the quarterback depth chart, figure that the Ducks at best would be headed to the Las Vegas Bowl. 

Things certainly have become more interesting at quarterback for the Ducks. But when you have a starter good enough to scare off two players as gifted as Jonsen and Wilson, that can't be considered a bad thing.