Marcus Arroyo

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.

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. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 5 - TE Jacob Breeland

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 5 - TE Jacob Breeland

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. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland.

No other position on the roster could be more desperate for someone to rise to the occasion than tight end. 

Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt all left the program as seniors after combining for 65 receptions last season. 

That leaves Breeland as the lone returning tight end with playing experience. He caught six passes for 123 yards in 11 games last season with a long reception of 63 yards at Washington State.

While all of this might paint a seemingly hazardous situation at tight end, the truth is that Breeland has the potential to become better than all three of Oregon's senior tight ends from last season. He is certainly more athletic than Mundt and Baylis and he is faster than Brown, who lost some steps after suffering a major leg injury in 2014. 

At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Breeland brings good size to the hybrid position that in coach Willie Taggart's offense, much like in Oregon's previous scheme, will align tight at the line of scrimmage, as a wing and flexed out. 

Depth is a bigger problem at tight end than the starter situation. Behind Breeland is redshirt freshman Cam McCormick, walk-on redshirt sophomore Matt Mariota and a bunch of names that remain mysteries. 

Oregon did not sign a tight end in the 2017 recruiting class. 

So as of now, Breeland is the lone guy Oregon can count on, which makes the tight end position a potential soft spot for the Ducks unless he remains healthy. 

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

 

Justin Herbert must improve temperament, leadership skills to reach potential

Justin Herbert must improve temperament, leadership skills to reach potential

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert on Saturday dealt what appeared to be a virtual knockout blow to end the quarterback competition between him, Travis Jonsen and Braxton Burmeister.

Herbert, while passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns to lead Team Free to a 34-11 victory over Team Brave, displayed what most already knew - that he is by far the best quarterback on the Ducks' roster. 

Redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. knew it. That's why last year's No. 3 quarterback decided two weeks into spring drills that he would be better off transferring. Jonsen, the No. 4 quarterback last year, has to know it by now after completing 5 of 15 passes for 86 yards and an interception while starting for Team Brave during in his third spring game at Oregon. If Burmeister, a true freshman, doesn't already know it then the talented four-star recruit will next fall when the "redshirt" label is slapped on him a week before the Southern Utah game. 

The hunch here is that Oregon coach Willie Taggart knows it, as well. He just isn't ready to state as much publicly. That's because something is gnawing at him, something he can't easily let go despite Herbert's clear superiority to the competition.  

Taggart is looking for a leader at quarterback and he doesn't see one just yet. 

When asked Saturday about Herbert's spring game performance having maybe ended the competition, the first-year Oregon coach first downplayed the performance by stating that it was just one of many outings during 15 days of spring drills.

"He had a hell of a scrimmage today but he had some bad practices, too," Taggart said. "And they all have throughout spring ball...They've all had some up and downs."

Then Taggart attacked the true crux of the situation. 

"For me, personally," Taggart said. "I'm looking for more than just throwing touchdowns. I'm looking for a guy that can lead this football team. A guy that's going to rally everybody on this team, not just the offensive guys but defense and everyone. When we can find that guy, that's when we are going to name a starter."

Translation: Herbert's leadership skills are lacking and holding him back.  

It's a concern for Taggart, a former college quarterback. Unfortunately for UO, this could be a concern that lingers well beyond next season unless Herbert makes a dramatic transformation in his overall demeanor. Taggart wants a vocal leader. Herbert is quiet. Taggart wants someone to motivate the entire roster. Herbert isn't quite fully comfortable getting after his receivers or linemen, let alone everyone in a helmet. Taggart wants a quarterback who rolls through adversity. Herbert sometimes struggles when things go badly. 

The rub here is that Jonsen and Burmeister haven't distinguished themselves as leaders, either. So while Taggart is clearly looking for that alpha dog quarterback, he might have to settle for a beta at the helm of his offense next fall. 

That doesn't have to be all bad, especially if that beta is as talented as Herbert, who last year threw for 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions over seven starts.  

Taggart talked yesterday about how the Ducks used to rally around former quarterback Marcus Mariota. Taggart wants to see the same dynamic develop under his first starting quarterback at Oregon. 

The irony here is that Taggart might have had some of the same reservations about Mariota at the same age as Herbert is now.

Let's jump into the wayback machine for a minute. 

Mariota had the benefit of redshirting as a freshman behind Darron Thomas before becoming the starter his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Mariota was hardly a leader of men at that time. In fact, there were still major questions about his leadership abilities following the 2013 season, his third year in the program.

One of the reasons Mariota elected to make the NFL wait and return to UO in 2014 was because he and his family didn't believe that he was ready to lead an NFL locker room full of grown men. Mariota stayed and improved his leadership skills during his final season at Oregon while also winning the Heisman Trophy. Still, he never blossomed into a classic vocal, alpha male quarterback. NFL scouts even questioned his leadership abilities heading into the 2015 NFL Draft. Those questions persist even today, albeit they have lessened annually as he continues to grow as a leader and develop as a quarterback with the Tennessee Titans. 

Then there's Herbert, who grew up idolizing Mariota and has the ability to one day contend for a Heisman and become a high draft pick. Not simply for his abilities, but for his demeanor. When Herbert took the program by storm, some called him "Mariota 2.0" and "Herbiota" because he mirrored Mariota's innate ability to process information, remain cool under pressure and make the right play, as well as make the spectacular seem routine. 

But they also share another trait that isn't a positive for the quarterback position. Like Mariota as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore, Herbert is more of an introvert on the field. Being a leader does not come naturally for him, as it didn't for Mariota. 

Herbert also is a mirror image of Mariota during interviews. Trying to squeeze a good quote out of either of them is like attempting to extract the milk from a coconut with a can opener. 

Herbert said Saturday that he is gradually becoming more comfortable with his role and that Taggart has been instrumental in his development. 

"Having a guy like coach T, it definitely helps," Herbert said. "He's very personable. And having guys around me that I'm comfortable with is also a huge bonus because I can be myself around them."

It cannot be understated just how much Herbert is still a kid. At this point last year he was playing high school baseball and getting ready for the Sheldon High School prom. Now he is viewed as the potential savior of a program that just underwent an emotional and difficult separation from it's former staff of long-time coaches following a disastrous 4-8 season and handed the reigns to a young coach easing into his first Power Five Conference job.

Herbert is learning his second college offense in nine months, so one would expect him to have "ups and downs" during a 15-practice spring stretch. Herbert had bad days last fall, as well, which is why he didn't beat out senior Dakota Prukop during fall camp. But once he settled into the offense, it became clear to former coach Mark Helfrich and his staff that they had to get Herbert onto the field.

If not for UO's pitiful defense (41.4 points allowed per game), and a down season for injury-plagued running back Royce Freeman, Herbert's impressive play might have saved the jobs of the former coaching staff. His numbers per game were on par with Mariota's in 2012 when the team went 12-1, and and in 2013, when the Ducks were 11-2. 

But while Herbert played his position well, he wasn't nearly ready to carry a team on his back, physically or emotionally.  Anyone who believes a young Mariota could have won more with last year's team would be mistaken. The 2012 Oregon defense allowed 21.6 points allowed per game. Running back Kenjon Barner flirted with being a Heisman Trophy candidate while assisting Mariota with 1,717 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

All of that said, one major difference exists when comparing the two at the same age. Mariota better handled adversity. Herbert, according to a source on last year's team, could at times become fragile emotionally when things went badly. That trait popped up again here and there during spring, according to a current team source. Mariota, on the other hand, led by example with his demeanor despite not being vocal, and inspired his teammates with his steely presence. 

Again, we're talking about a young man who just turned 19 in March and has yet to have completed his first year of college. So, it's not a knock on Herbert that he is still maturing. It's just a fact, and one that Taggart is allowing to be a factor as he evaluates the quarterback position. 

That all said, Oregon's best chance for a quick turnaround in 2017 is for Herbert to be at the helm, not Jonsen or Burmeister. But Taggart believes that if Herbert can improve his temperament and leadership skills, the Ducks could win more games than it would otherwise. 

Taggart has seen quarterbacks with strong personalities turn teams around before. 

While a running backs coach at Stanford in 2009, Taggart watched Andrew Luck blossom into a leader and change the overall culture and mentality of the team as a redshirt freshman. As the head coach at South Florida, Taggart didn't start tasting success until quarterback Quinton Flowers grew into a leader that his teammates rallied around as a sophomore in 2015.

Herbert will be entering year two of his college career next fall. He has accomplished more than Luck, Flowers and Mariota had entering their second years on a college campus, but Herbert lags behind in just that one area of concern.  

Another point must also be made here. Taggart might be looking for a leader but he needs a baller at quarterback, first and foremost. 

In the days leading up to the spring game, Taggart said he wanted to see which players would "show up and show out." Strange things, as he put it, happen to players when they enter a game situation and must perform under the spotlight.

To that end, Herbert delivered, as he did most of last season, while Jonsen and Burmeister faltered. 

Whatever temperament issues Herbert might have, this is still a guy who played better as the game went on against eventual Pac-12 champion Washington during a 71-20 loss at Autzen Stadium. He brought Oregon back at California with six touchdown passes only to fall short in overtime. And, Herbert led the Ducks on a game-winning drive in the final minute at Utah. The game-winner, with seconds remaining, went to Darren Carrington II in the corner of the end zone on a throw that NFL superstars, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady could not exceed.  

So, Herbert has indeed proven he can bounce back from adversity. His talent is undeniable. The question entering the summer will be, can he take is overall mental makeup to the next level sooner, rather than later. 

Taggart said he is looking for team leadership across the board over the summer on a team that last season suffered from a severe lack of leaders. 

"I think the offseason is going to be big," Taggart said. "When I talk about who can lead this team, who can get their teammates out there to work on their craft when the coaches can't be there."

Taggart said he didn't see enough of self-starter mentality in January from anyone, even the quarterbacks. He hopes to see it more this summer. 

"It starts with the quarterback," Taggart said. "Who can get his teammates to go out there and work when the NCAA doesn't allow us to be out there with them. That's what's going to make us a better football team."

Herbert's physical play will give the Ducks a chance to win most games on their schedule next season. But UO likely won't contend for a Pac-12 title until Herbert's leadership skills and temperament catch up with his elite-level physical gifts. 

Oregon co-OC Marcus Arroyo brings that "juice" to the field

Oregon co-OC Marcus Arroyo brings that "juice" to the field

EUGENE - Oregon co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo has “that juice,” Ducks coach Willie Taggart covets.

That’s why he hired him. That’s what onlookers have witnessed from the Ducks’ passing game coordinator during spring drills.

“He’s smart. Very smart,” Taggart said. “Very articulate. He does a great job with the players. He’s very energetic. That’s everyday. He’s like coach (Jim) Leavitt. Got that juice everyday. He’s a team player. All about the team.”

New defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, often "juiced" carbonated, sugary beverages, is a ball of energy on the defensive side while Arroyo is his counterpart on the offensive side of the ball.

Always bouncing. Always on the hop. Arroyo physically exudes the excitement he expresses about being at Oregon.

And it all began with an interrupted phone call following an unfortunate incident.

If Taggart had had his way, Arroyo would already be on year three with his staff. Taggart, while at South Florida, tried to hire the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer' quarterbacks coach when he became available after the Bucs made staff changes following the 2014 season. However, Taggart said USF lacked the financial resources to land Arroyo, who received a better offer from Oklahoma State, where he coached running backs the past two seasons.

When Taggart accepted the head coaching job at Oregon last December he brought David Reaves with him from South Florida to be the Ducks’ passing game coordinator. His tenure didn’t last long. A poor decision to drive while intoxicated led to a DUII arrest on Jan. 22, prompting Oregon to begin the process of terminating him. Reaves ultimately resigned a couple of weeks later.

That put Taggart back on the hunt for a passing game coordinator to compliment running game coordinator and offensive line coach, Mario Cristobal. That trail led Taggart back to Arroyo. This time, armed with greater financial resources from UO, Taggart felt confident he could land his man.

A phone call was placed, somewhat surprising Arroyo.

“My first response was, “I’ve got to buckle my seatbelt, I’m about to take off, I’m on an airplane right now,’” Arroyo explained following Wednesday’s practice. “And, I’ll call you back when I land.”

Arroyo did call back. Taggart answered and offered. Arroyo accepted, eager to work with Taggart.  

“In our business it’s a small circle,” Arroyo said. “When you find really, really good people you want to work with you stay in contact, and it worked out.”

Getting back to west coast appealed to Arroyo, who hails from Colfax, Calif., and played quarterback at San Jose State (1998-2002), passing for 4,672 yards and 28 touchdowns over his career.

Arroyo also worked at California under coach Jeff Tedford, a former UO offensive coordinator (1998-2001), as the the quarterbacks coach in 2011 before adding the responsibilities of passing game coordinator in 2012.

Arroyo, who coaches quarterbacks and tight ends for UO, has also coached wide receivers in his past, doing so at Southern Mississippi in 2013 when he was also the offensive coordinator.

“From an experience standpoint, he has everything you’re looking for,” Taggart said.  

Right now Arroyo's main focus is on coordinating the Ducks' passing game and evaluating the play of four talented quarterbacks: sophomore Justin Herbert, redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr, redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister. 

Arroyo said the group is getting equal-enough snaps to allow for a true competition. Herbert, who started seven games last season, is the logical favorite to win the job. Arroyo likes what he's seen from him so far. 

"What I saw on film coming in was a young man with great poise, some really good traits and intangibles," Arroyo said.

Jonsen said he's enjoyed working with Arroyo, who stresses the importance of being a student of the game.

"He's just been really on us watching film," Jonsen said. "Really taking that free time and really watching yourself in 7-on and team."

Pushing the quarterbacks to match his intensity is part of that “juice” Taggart likes about Arroyo, who came to Oregon with high expectations for himself and the Ducks' offense.

“There’s no barriers for success at Oregon,” Arroyo said.

Oregon QB Justin Herbert welcomes competition

Oregon QB Justin Herbert welcomes competition

Don't miss: Taggart and Ducks enter spring with five burning questions

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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."

Oregon's defense to receive some extra coaching TLC

Oregon's defense to receive some extra coaching TLC

The Oregon defense, which ranked 128th in the nation last season, will receive some extra tender love and care under new coach Willie Taggart.

During a lengthy one-on-one interview this week that will air later this month on CSN, Taggart said that special teams coordinator Raymond Woodie has recently been handed the extra assignment of also coaching outside linebackers. That will leave defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to coach only the inside linebackers instead of the entire linebacker crew. 

Oregon already has two defensive backs coaches with Keith Heyward handling safeties and Charles Clark directing the cornerbacks. 

Assistant head coach Joe Salave'a will coach the defensive line. 

The reason for the use of multiple coaches at two different position groups on defense is simple. Taggart said the defensive side of the ball needs more work in the areas of development and communication, a big issue for Oregon the past two seasons when the defense ranked among the worst in the nation. 

The decision to have two defensive backs coaches, something Leavitt used as the defensive coordinator in Colorado before Oregon hired him away during the offseason, is to increase communication within a group that is spread out all over the field. Plus, the group must communicate coverages with the linebackers. 

"We're trying to create a synergy throughout the defense," Taggart said.

Teaching a new defense to what was a very young group last year with just one senior starter will be challenging. Having two defensive back coaches working to make sure there is at least proper communication will help accelerate the growth process, Taggart hopes. 

"It's a lot easier if guys have two coaches back there," Taggart said. 

The same could happen with the linebackers. Oregon will have seven linebackers that are going to be either freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores. Getting them up to speed as fast as possible could make all the difference next season, but especially by 2018 when four out of that group will likely make up the starting lineup. 

While the defense will have five full-time coaches handling position groups, the offense will have four. Co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal will take on the running game and the offensive line. Co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo will handle the passing game, quarterbacks and tight ends with the help of a graduate assistant. Michael Johnson will coach wide receivers and Donte Pimpleton will handle the running backs. 

Oregon officially hires Marcus Arroyo as co-offensive coordinator

Oregon officially hires Marcus Arroyo as co-offensive coordinator

EUGENE – Willie Taggart has announced the addition of Marcus Arroyoas the Ducks’ new co-offensive coordinator, as well as the team’s quarterbacks and tight ends coach.

Arroyo came to Eugene after spending two years as the running backs coach at Oklahoma State. His second year with the Cowboys brought a substantial uptick in the running game from 2015, as OSU went from averaging 3.6 yards per carry and 126.8 yards per game to averaging 4.52 yards per carry and 170.9 yards per game in 2016. The Cowboys’ 32 touchdowns in 2016 were also an improvement from their 25 in 2015.

Arroyo was also instrumental in grooming running back Justice Hill, who set OSU’s freshman rushing record in 2016 and was the nation’s top freshman rusher with 1,142 yards on 206 carries (5.54 ypc).

Prior to going to Stillwater, Arroyo spent the 2014-15 season in the NFL as interim offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He originally went to Tampa Bay to coach quarterbacks, but after a health procedure sidelined Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, Arroyo took on the OC duties.

With Arroyo at the helm of the Tampa Bay offense, receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson both eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving, the first time in team history a pair of receivers went over 1,000 yards. Evans also set franchise rookie records with 68 receptions, 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns to become one of five finalists for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Before making the move to the NFL, Arroyo spent the 2013 season as the offensive coordinator and outside receivers coach at Southern Mississippi. Operating in Arroyo’s offense, true freshman quarterback Nick Mullens earned a spot on the Conference USA all-freshman team.

Arroyo gained experience working in the Pac-12 before going to USM, spending 2011 and 2012 as the passing-game coordinator and play-caller at California. Arroyo helped quarterback Zach Maynard work his way into the school’s career top 10 in both passing yards (5,204) and total offense (5,350) in only two seasons, and his 128.36 career passer efficiency rating is eighth in Cal history.

Arroyo spent the 2009 and 2010 campaigns at Wyoming as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, developing quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels into the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2009. Arroyo installed a new spread offense in 2009 that helped the Cowboys score 30 points or more five times and mount five fourth-quarter comebacks. Arroyo’s offense was stellar at taking care of the football, finishing seventh in the nation in fewest turnovers lost with only 14.

Prior to his stint at Wyoming, Arroyo was the co-offensive coordinator for two seasons and quarterbacks coach for three campaigns at his alma mater, San Jose State. He was the quarterbacks coach and play-caller for the Spartans in 2006, and added co-offensive coordinator duties for 2007 and 2008 under head coach Dick Tomey. Arroyo tutored the Spartans’ all-time leader in passing and total offense, Adam Tafralis, from 2006-07, guiding him to 7,548 career passing yards and 8,111 yards of total offense. Arroyo was an offensive graduate assistant at San Jose State in 2005 before being elevated to a full-time assistant.

Arroyo began his coaching career with the Spartans in 2003 as an undergraduate assistant coach. He was the offensive coordinator at Prairie View A&M (FCS) in 2004 before returning to San Jose State as a graduate assistant.

A native of Colfax, Calif., Arroyo was a three-year letterman at San Jose State, where he played quarterback from 1998-2002. In 2000, he passed for 2,334 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading the Spartans to seven wins, their most in eight seasons.

 

Source: Oregon to hire Marcus Arroyo as co-offensive coordinator

Source: Oregon to hire Marcus Arroyo as co-offensive coordinator

Oregon is in the process of hiring Marcus Arroyo to coach quarterbacks and become the co-offensive coordinator, a source has confirmed.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman first tweeted the news earlier today. 

Arroyo will replace David Reaves, who resigned last Friday nearly two weeks after he was arrested by Eugene Police for DUI leading to Oregon beginning the process of terminating his two-year, $600,000 contract with cause.  Reaves, who also coached tight ends, previously worked with new Oregon coach Willie Taggart at South Florida before joining him in Eugene. 

Arroyo will be the Ducks' passing game coordinator and join forces with Mario Cristobal, Oregon's running game coordinator and offensive line coach. 

Arroyo, who played quarterback at San Jose State (1998-2002), spent the past two years coaching running backs at Oklahoma State.

Prior to that, he coached quarterbacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014). His last stint as an offensive coordinator came in 2013 at Southern Mississippi where he also coached outside wide receivers. 

Arroyo was also the passing game coordinator and coached quarterbacks at California in 2012, and held the same positions at Wyoming from 2009 through 2010.

Oregon now has one staff position to fill. Former wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, who was in the car with Reaves the night he was arrested, earlier this week left the Ducks to become the wide receivers coach at UCLA.

According to a source, the Ducks are looking at several candidates to replace Dougherty including former LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.