Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert did all he could to save the Ducks last season.
He threw for six touchdowns in a loss at California. He tied a passing record with 489 yards during a win against Arizona State. He threw the winning touchdown at Utah in the final seconds.
All told, Herbert passed for 1,986 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions in seven starts as a freshman, and he looked quite amazing while doing so.
Nevertheless, his performance came under UO's former coaching staff during a 4-8 season in which he won just two games. Herbert hasn't done anything under new coach Willie Taggart. For those reasons, Herbert must compete for his job, and he's fine with that.
“Competition is great for everyone," Herbert said Wednesday morning prior to the start of spring drills. "It pushes everyone and I think it’s great. I’m going to do my best and if it’s me, great, but if it’s not, I’ll be supportive of whoever it is. I just have to do my best and let things take care of themselves.”
The "whoever" in that quote refers to redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr., the No. 3 quarterback last season, and redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen, last season's No. 4.
Taggart likes the talent he sees in both challengers. He says he wants to give them a fair chance to earn the starting job. If one comes remotely close to challenging Herbert, that would signal that the Ducks are would be set at this position for years to come.
Herbert certainly is an interesting position. Former coach Mark Helfrich, former offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and quarterback coach David Yost believed in Herbert enough to start him after senior transfer Dakota Prukop struggled. Now Herbert must adjust to a new system and new coaches, including co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo.
“It was definitely tough saying goodbye to the past coaches," Herbert said. "We built a great relationship with them…But this new staff has come in and they’ve made a great relationship with us, and so they’ve actually made the process quite a bit easier.”
Taggart will spend more time evaluating quarterback than any other position. It's the spot he played at Western Kentucky. Leadership at that position, he said, is paramount.
"He says he has to earn our trust," Herbert said, "like we have to earn his."
At least it appears that the new system shouldn't be tough for Herbert to grasp.
“I would say it’s really similar (to the former system)," Herbert said. "The plays just have different names. But a lot of the concepts and formations are very similar."