Oregon Ducks

Best-case scenario for QB Braxton Burmeister is to redshirt

Oregon freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister not getting into Saturday's 77-21 win over Southern Utah for even one play is a clear indication that the Ducks hope to redshirt the 2017 four-star recruit.

Or is it? Oregon coach Willie Taggart denied such a plan was afoot following Saturday's win at Autzen Stadium.

"We'll see how it plays out moving forward," Taggart said. "Right now we're not thinking about redshirting anybody."

Indeed, Oregon is playing freshmen whenever possible to help interject some new talent into the roster and also to prepare them for the future. But after removing sophomore starting quarterback Justin Herbert from Saturday's game when it was all but over, the Ducks turned to senior Taylor Alie to close it out, not to Burmeister, a prized recruit Taggart flipped from Arizona.

Saturday provided an obvious opportunity to give Burmeister game reps yet Taggart passed. It's especially curious given that Alie and Burmeister are listed as co-backups on the depth chart. If they are truly competing, then why not give Burmeister some game reps?

The fact that Burmeister, who participated in spring drills, hasn't already beaten out Alie, who played receiver last year is all the reason in the world to redshirt the freshman out of La Jolla, Calif.  

Plus, doing so would then provide two years of eligibility separation between Burmeister and Herbert, who will be around at least through 2018. If he were to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, Burmeister could enter that fall as the starter as a redshirt sophomore. Even if Herbert played four years at Oregon - very likely given his academic aspirations - then Burmeister could take over in 2020 as a redshirt junior with two years of eligibility remaining. 

Taggart doesn't permit true freshman to speak to the media. But one could venture to guess that Burmeister wouldn't trade a full year as a starter on the back end of his career to get in a handful plays in garbage time now. That said, it would be interesting to see what Taggart would do if he needed to replace an injured Herbert for a long period of time. In that case, Burmeister could not only be called into action, but could easily become the starter. 

Alie completed all six of his safe pass attempts on Saturday for 74 yards. He also ran the ball three times for 10 yards and a touchdown. He is serviceable, but not very dynamic, which is why former coach Mark Helfrich moved him to wide receiver last season.

The former walk-on out of Sheldon High School worked his way toward earning a scholarship and onto the field in 2015 after starter Vernon Adams Jr. went out with a broken finger. While jockeying back and forth between Jeff Lockie for playing time, Alie threw a touchdown pass at Colorado and ran for an 87-yard score against Georgia State. 

But he could never get over the hump against Lockie for the backup job and in the spring of 2016 he was moved to wide receiver where he stayed until this fall after Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr. decided to transfer because they knew they could never beat out Herbert. 

Suddenly, Taggart went from having four scholarship quarterbacks with Burmeister at No. 4 to having just two before moving Alie back to quarterback so he could compete with the freshman for the backup job. 

Alie certainly has the advantage in terms of experience, but Burmeister is faster Alie and has a much livelier arm. He is going to make things happen. Enough so that starting him in the place of an injured Herbert could prove to be the best option. 

However, assuming Herbert remains healthy, preserving Burmeister's redshirt and relying on Alie for spot backup duties is the best-case scenario for all involved.