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2019 Oregon spring football game provides fans a lot to “Shout!” about

2019 Oregon spring football game provides fans a lot to “Shout!” about

There was something different about the 2019 Oregon spring football game.

The spring scrimmage finale provided the expected excitement about the potential of next season and appreciation for the United States military. However, Coach Mario Cristobal laid out the red carpet and invites to elevate the usual big alumni weekend to “something bigger."

“So important for our players to learn more about our past,” Cristobal said. “To grow as a football team understanding that for us, upholding the legacy requires a lot and seeing (alumni) face-to-face and eye-to-eye.”

The support for the present squad was insane; surrounded by former Ducks and future Ducks alike. The Autzen Stadium sideline was bursting with Oregon legends and chockfull of a deep collection of talented recruits.

In front of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Dan Fouts, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, the nation’s top quarterback recruit D.J. Uiagalelei, Mighty Oregon (first team offense/second team defense) beat the Fighting Ducks (second team offense/first team defense), 20-13.

It’s a good sign when the only moment of contention came at the end of the third quarter when the sound system experienced major difficulties during the “Shout!” song and dance; fans could barely hear the Autzen Stadium tradition and made their displeasure known. But that doesn’t mean the 35,100 fans in attendance weren’t electrified by what they saw.

Quarterback Justin Herbert is still elite, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and making zero errors. However, back-up quarterback Tyler Shough stole the show. Oregon fans can breathe easy knowing the Ducks have a reliable backup quarterback. After not attempting a pass last season, the redshirt freshman made effective short throws and looked poised with quick decision making. He’s added 10 pounds of muscle and is looking every bit the fit of a Pac-12 starting quarterback.

"It definitely felt good,” said Shough. “At this point, it's just executing the game plan and executing the plays and having fun out there. I know we have good players around me so just feeding them the ball the best I can."
Shough finished with 178 receiving yards on 18-of-31 passing with one interception and 12 rushing yards.

The battle to replace former leading receiver Dillon Mitchell’s production was on full display and it appears Herbert will have plenty of offensive weapons in 2019. With large-and-in-charge graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, freshmen Mycah Pittman and Josh Delgado plus improved veterans Jaylon Redd, Brenden Schooler and Johnny Johnson III, Oregon’s wide receiver room is deep.

After an up-and-down 2018 season, Schooler showcased his development with the highlight catch of the day; a 26-yard sideline fade grab with Thomas Graham draped all over him. Pittman led all receivers with seven receptions. Johnson snagged three catches, one for a touchdown. His 6-foot-4, 230-pound size advantage will be a constant goal line threat.

Maybe the best news? Zero dropped passes from the wide receivers. Although, a few catchable balls hit the turf from Oregon’s tight ends.

According to Cristobal, Oregon running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio has earned a larger role in 2019. Habibi-Likio had 12 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 24 yards.

The defense showed they haven’t missed a beat under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. La’Mar Winston Jr. looks to be the top candidate to play Avalos’ “STUD” position. It’s clear Kayvon Thibodeaux will make an instant impact. The nation’s top recruit generated consistent pressure and recorded a sack.

“The best part about it is his expectation for himself is as big or bigger as we have for him,” Cristobal said. “I don’t want to be a cliché guy, but he’s got a five-star heart and five-star talent.”

Of the 10 early enrollees of UO’s 2019 recruiting class, four are defensive players and Thibodeaux wasn’t the only one to shine in the spring game. Cornerback Mykael Wright led the team with five tackles, three pass break-ups and a game-sealing interception in the end zone.

UO now enters its offseason strength and conditioning program while the coaches hit the recruiting trail.  On a beautiful spring day and the blooming of a spring tradition that puts emphasis on alumni and legacy, it was a good day to be a Duck.

Rapid Reaction: Quick takeaways from the Oregon spring game

Rapid Reaction: Quick takeaways from the Oregon spring game

A few quick takeaways from the Oregon spring game:

Mighty Oregon defeated the Fighting Ducks, 20-13.

- Tyler Shough has all the tools to become a Pac-12 level starting quarterback. Oregon fans can breathe easy knowing the Ducks have a reliable backup quarterback. The redshirt freshman made effective short throws and looked poised. Yes, it was only a spring game versus the second team defense but I was impressed with his decision making and sharp arm, plus adding 10 pounds of muscle with a better grasp on the playbook doesn’t hurt either.

- Improved dropped passes from the wide receivers. After an up and down 2018 season, Johnny Johnson III and Brenden Schooler showcased their development, confidence and held on the ball.

- Justin Herbert is still elite. He had a pair of touchdown passes and made zero errors.

- Kayvon Thibodeaux is going to make an instant impact. He generated consistent pressure and had a sack.

Oregon spring game: Be the fan in the know

Oregon spring game: Be the fan in the know

Do you want to be the Duck football fan in the know for the Oregon spring football game? I've got you covered. 

Saturday will be a great opportunity to see ten early enrollees from Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class, plus fresh face Penn State graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson! Watch the video about for what you should be watching for. 

The roster will be split into two teams instead of the offense vs. defense format from a year ago. Rosters for the “Mighty Oregon” squad and the “Fighting Ducks” team will be unveiled soon. 

More details:

  • Admission is free.
  • Fans are asked to bring three non-perishable food items for donation to Food for Lane County. 
  • Oregon legends and Pro Football Hall of Fame members Gary Zimmerman (OL, 1980-83) and Dan Fouts (QB, 1970-72) will represent the two teams during the coin toss.
  • Fans are encouraged to arrive early and carpool as much as possible. The Autzen Stadium East parking lot will open to the public at 11:30 a.m. at a cost of $5 per vehicle.
  • Starting at 1 p.m. there will be an Easter egg hunt for children on the HDC practice fields. Fans should enter through the north gate that is closest to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
  • The men’s basketball program will be signing autographs inside Autzen Stadium on the concourse starting at 1 p.m. Commemorative autograph cards will be provided.
  • Flyover by F-15s from Oregon National Guard during the national anthem.

Meet Mycah Pittman, the Oregon freshman with "fire in his belly"

Meet Mycah Pittman, the Oregon freshman with "fire in his belly"

How can Oregon make the most of quarterback Justin Herbert’s final season as a Duck? One fresh-faced Duck receiver is working on going from starstruck to filling big shoes. As one of the highest rated receivers to sign with Oregon, freshman Mycah Pittman has made his presence felt and is already impacting the Duck offense.

The battle to replace former leading receiver Dillon Mitchell’s production (75 receptions for 1,184 yards) will be on full display Saturday in Eugene at the Oregon football spring game.

Pittman, a consensus four-star recruit and top three wide receiver from California, has been playing in the slot during spring practices with his eye on expanding his role. His speed is a major asset but his strong hands have impressed teammates and coaches.

“He’s got that swagger, he knows who he is, his potential, but he can ball too,” Jevon Holland said. “He’s resilient and he’s got fire in his belly. He’s got a lot of what we need in the receiver position and on the team, period. Especially from a young guy to push the older guys.”

Dropped passes aren’t an issue for Pittman. “Yea, you will rarely see me drop a pass,” Pittman said before correcting himself. “You wont see that. Let’s leave it at that.

“I never double catch the ball, I’ll make sure I stay after practice if I need to get it right,” Pittman said after Tuesday’s practice.  

Every day for two months, Pittman spent his hands deep in a bucket of rice, an “old school workout” exercising his hands to increase strength and grip.

Pittman already has a grasp on more than 90 percent of Oregon’s playbook. He enrolled early to get a head start on executing alignments, routes and developing a connection with Herbert. March 29 was his first day, but his Oregon career started long before that. Before and after high school, Pittman hit the books to study Oregon’s offense for a total of three hours a day. He took to the whiteboard to work on the X’s and O’s and used up five dry erase markers.

“I didn’t see any type of transition from him,” La’Mar Winston Jr. said. “He was ready to go from the first practice, first play, first catch. Strong hands, nice route runner.”

Pittman was in awe when describing catching passes from Herbert. “I caught my first pass on a little out route from Justin Herbert and I was like, ‘Yo, Justin Herbert just threw me the ball!’” Pittman said. “This is the No. 1 pick, I’ve seen this guy on TV, and he’s bigger in person. It’s pretty cool. He’s a very humble guy.”

His preparation and attention to detail has paid off. Within three weeks, Pittman has turned heads with flashy grabs from Herbert and backup quarterback Tyler Shough, elevated the play of the position group as a whole and developed a friendship with another newcomer who has already climbed the depth chart, Juwan Johnson.

Although new to the Oregon roster, Johnson has experience on his side, playing in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran wide receiver, Brenden Schooler (21 games).

“He’s a great kid ultimately. He just wants to learn," said Johnson on his first impression of Pittman. “I sort of took him under my wing when he got here. He was sort of lost and eager to learn the plays. So we kind of picked up the plays together and did it that way. It was great for both of us, very beneficial. I had no idea his dad was Michael Pittman until last week.”

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound athlete from Calabasas High School has football in his blood. His father Michael Pittman was a productive NFL running back for a decade and won a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mycah lived in Florida for 10 years.

When it comes to drawbacks of the freshman, the Ducks don’t have much to say. Although, Pittman says cherry jelly beans are a junk food weakness. Totally relatable.

The depth chart is open and Pittman is ready to fight for a starting spot.  He doesn’t feel pressure for Saturday, to play in Autzen Stadium with fans watching for the first time, “I am more excited when there are more people to see me."

Glimpse of life without Sabrina Ionescu: Oregon WBB lands the nation’s top guard, Sydney Parrish

Glimpse of life without Sabrina Ionescu: Oregon WBB lands the nation’s top guard, Sydney Parrish

The future is so bright for Oregon women’s basketball, you might need to wear shades.

Okay that was a lame, overused pun.

Fresh off a Final Four run, the Oregon women’s basketball program has elevated it’s standard, discarded its “newbie” title among the nation’s elite and landed the nation’s No. 11 overall prospect and the No. 1 guard in the class of 2020, according to ESPNW.

Indiana-native Sydney Parrish committed to Oregon over Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee and UCLA. The 6-foot-2 athlete is the first five-star prospect to commit to Oregon since Satou Sabally in the class of 2017 and the highest rated recruit to commit to Oregon since Sabrina Ionescu (No. 4 overall in 2016).

The Ducks are looking more like a perennial national contender by the minute. Expected to be the top-rated preseason team in 2019-20, Oregon returns most of its team including rising stars Sabally, Erin Boley, Nyara Sabally and a very-determined Sabrina Ionescu, who opted to stay at Oregon with one more accolade in mind; a national championship.

However, the Wooden Award winning Ionescu has only one year of eligibility left. As irreplaceable as the triple-double queen is, Parrish has all the tools to pick up and lead the Ducks when Ionescu turns pro.

"We're building something here in Eugene," Ionescu said in her Players Tribune letter. "We're building something — together — that's going to last for a long time after we've all graduated."

As a junior, Parrish averaged 21 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game, leading Hamilton Southeastern School (Indiana) to its first-ever state championship and earning the Gatorade State Player of the Year award.

The elite guard is Oregon’s first verbal commitment for the 2020 class and Parrish plans on being an active recruiter for the Ducks.

She’s a skilled and versatile sharpshooter that clicked with coach Kelly Graves immediately.

“It didn’t feel like any other visit,” Parrish said to Prospects Nation.  “I didn’t feel like the coaches were trying to sell me on anything.”

Parrish and her family were taking spring break in Florida when the Ducks made the Final Four in Tampa Bay earlier this month.  Her parents surprised her with tickets and Parrish was able to watch her future team.  

Dillion Mitchell is meeting with NFL teams and ready to make the world 'eat their words'

Dillion Mitchell is meeting with NFL teams and ready to make the world 'eat their words'

Dillon Mitchell, the highly recruited four-star WR prospect out of Memphis, Tennessee, has been pegged as a “sleeper” in a loaded receiver class but has found a unique niche. The Pac-12 2018 receiving yards leader is eager to make a team and prove he belongs in the NFL, where his goal is to win a Super Bowl.

Mitchell has visited the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft, according to the former Oregon star. 

Coming off of one of the best seasons a Duck has ever had that resulted in an NFL Combine invitation, Mitchell also had formal meetings at the Combine with the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.

“It has been great to be invited in and get to be around the place I would be working,” said the Redbox Bowl MVP. “Only surprising aspect would be that as I viewed the NFL facilities, I look back at the Oregon facility as something like Mount Olympus now. Nothing compares to the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. Nothing.”

Mitchell chose to strike while the iron was hot and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft after shattering expectations in 2018, which he describes as a tough decision. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s advice was if he decided to take his talents to the NFL, go in with a whole heart and don’t let an opportunity slip by… Guidance that Mitchell has taken to heart.

“The whole world is going to eat their words.” Mitchell tweeted on April 12.

UO’s single-season leader in receiving yards said he was referencing his hunger and determination to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. He wants to quiet critics, who list his ball-tracking as a main concern. Mitchell says his agent has told him to prepare for his draft range to be anywhere from first round to undrafted, come April 25-27.

I watched Mitchell show off his electric athleticism by making contested catches away from his frame and at tough angles at Oregon. The chip on his shoulder reminds me of former Ducks basketball star Dillon Brooks; it powers their ability instead of limits it. In my opinion, there is too much for an NFL team to fall in love with for Mitchell to go undrafted.   

Yes, the 2019 receivers group is full of incredible, large athletes who excel in contested catches. The pool of slot players and short-target threats is smaller. Mitchell fits the bill for a variety of team needs, but has been seriously linked to the Cardinals (where he could be catching passes from quarterback prospect and rumored overall No. 1 draft pick Kyler Murray).

If it was up to Mitchell’s father, Dillon would be in silver and black next season with the Oakland Radiers. He called his dad is a “top-tier Raiders fan” with a decadent man cave who is considering moving to Las Vegas. Can you imagine Mitchell alongside Antonio Brown in Oakland?

His ability as a ball carrier, excellent route running, efficient footwork and yards after catch potential make him an enticing weapon for NFL offenses. At 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, Mitchell checks the box for his frame. His explosive junior season caught a lot of attention, recording 75 catches for 1,184 yards and ten touchdowns.

The pre-draft visits are a huge opportunity for Mitchell to feature his large route tree and how quickly he can process different game scenarios. Naturally soft spoken, Mitchell's interviews could give him the opportunity set himself apart from the other mid-round wide receivers. 

His biggest strength is his versatility: he could play outside, in the slot, or both. His downfield speed serves as both a scorcher on offense and as a potential force in the return game. Mitchell periodically handled return duties, with a long return of 45 yards on a punt return during his rookie season.

The Draft Network said Mitchell is, "sudden as smoke when releasing off the line of scrimmage or attacking would-be tacklers on screens and other quick-hitting plays." Mitchell lands at No. 124 (round four) on the best available prospects list, which would be the Seattle Seahawks' selection.

A strong combine and Oregon pro day performance added buzz and likely raised his draft stock. Mitchell proved his extremely quick ability to accelerate and stretch the field in the 40-yard dash, timing in at 4.46 seconds, the 14th fastest out of 47 receivers who ran. At Oregon’s pro day he recorded a 6.93 second three-cone drill, which would be sixth among 29 wide receivers who ran at the combine.

With his whole heart in it, Mitchell can’t wait to hear his name called.

“I think it will be a different type of feeling that I’ve never felt before,” Mitchell said. "I’ve been holding onto this dream for so long, since I was a kid. And for something to finally happen… I’m not sure what the emotions will be but I’m going to have tears of joy most definitely.”

Louis King officially NBA bound: Ducks still capable of greatness

Louis King officially NBA bound: Ducks still capable of greatness

Louis King won’t be in an Oregon Duck uniform next season. The 6-foot-9 forward declared on Twitter that he'd be hiring and agent and submitting paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft.

The freshman becomes the third one-and-done player at Oregon in two seasons (Troy Brown and Bol Bol). He’s largely projected to be a second round selection although some mock drafts do not have him listed.

Of course, a strong NBA Combine workout and workouts hosted by NBA teams could increase King’s draft stock.

This decision comes on the heels of Oregon women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu choosing to forgo the WNBA draft, where she would have likely been the top pick.

If King had stayed for his sophomore season, Oregon had the recipe to be a Final Four contender; returning seven scholarship players and adding a top 10 recruiting class. But don't fret, Ducks fans, next season is not lost. The Ducks can still find success and make a posteason run with Dana Altman as head coach, Kenny Wooten and Payton Pritchard's likely return, a strong incoming class and the team buying into elite defense. However, without King, Oregon will again need to find its centerpiece star, similar to when Bol was lost to a season ending injury.

“My incredible coaches, teammates, managers, and training staff made me a better player on the court and a better person off the court,” King said on Twitter. “And to the fans who supported me and lifted me up - Oregon fans are the best in the world and there is no better place to play college basketball.

"As grateful as I am for the journey that has brought me to this point, my family and I have decided the time has come for me to pursue my next dream. This is the one that has driven me since I first started playing basketball as a young kid, and that is to pursue the opportunity to play at the highest level, in the NBA. For that reason, I am declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft with the intent to hire an agent. Thank you, God bless."

The former five-star recruit gained a lot of attention in Oregon’s postseason run, helping the Ducks win the Pac-12 tournament and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual national champion Virginia. His 7-foot-1 wingspan helped Oregon’s excellent defense and makes him an ideal NBA selection. In seven postseason games, he averaged 16.4 points per game on 50 percent shooting, including an impressive 61.1 percent from beyond the arc. 

King, the No. 35 prospect in the ESPN 100, finished second on the team in scoring this season behind Bol. He was named to the Pac-12 all-freshman team and was an all-conference honorable mention selection after averaging 13 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game and shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range.

Oregon football "hasn't had someone like" wide receiver Juwan Johnson in awhile

Oregon football "hasn't had someone like" wide receiver Juwan Johnson in awhile

When asked about graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson, his new Oregon Duck teammates can’t help but smile.

Senior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux named Johnson the scariest big play threat for next season. “He’s a big guy, who has caught some really good balls with a big body… We haven’t had someone like that in awhile.”

6-foot-4, 230-pound Johnson is stepping into a prime opportunity at Oregon and he’s already climbing the depth chart. He could be the answer to the biggest question of the 2019 football season: How can the Ducks get the most out of quarterback Justin Herbert in his final season at UO?

After arriving from Penn State, Johnson has made a strong first impression on the Ducks. His large, powerful, physical frame is unlike the other receivers currently on Oregon’s roster along with his ability to power through and over defensive backs.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo’s first thought when seeing Johnson in pads at Oregon? “Wow, he was as big as I remember, bigger even in pads.”

“The thing about Juwan is how engaged he’s been,” Arroyo, who is already planning to have Johnson play multiple positions, said. “He didn’t come out as a guy who’s played a ton – which he has, he’s played a lot, he’s been in a big-time program and been in big-time games – he’s been very humble and his work ethic and the way he’s been, come early and stay late, that’s really good to see. I think that’s good for our young guys to see too.”

After only four practices, Johnson went from being a new roster addition to working with the first-team offense. During Thursday’s practice, Johnson replaced Johnny Johnson III (unknown injury) in a two receiver, two tight end package alongside wide receiver Brenden Schooler and tight ends Ryan Bay and Cam McCormick.

You may have just learned Johnson’s name this month but he has been on coach Mario Cristobal’s radar since Cristobal's coaching stint at Alabama. As Johnson grew up in in Glassboro, New Jersey, his childhood dream was to play for Oregon. From across the country he was in awe the Oregon brand, LaMichael James, Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas. Huff is his favorite Duck receiver, Johnson followed Huff’s career when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons.

“My mom, at the time, was like, ‘No, that’s too far,’” Johnson said when discussing a possible future at Oregon. “Now I’m sort of a man on my own and paving my way, writing my own story. So I came out here and wanted to live out my childhood dream and play for Oregon.”

The newcomer is studying the Oregon playbook and putting work into connecting with quarterback Justin Herbert, on and off the field. The two Ducks bonded over an ‘Oheroes’ volunteer event last week, where they coached middle-schoolers.

“It’s exciting,” Johnson said of catching passes from Herbert. “He sees the field. He knows what he’s doing… We are building a relationship. I’m trying to feel him out and he’s trying to feel me out.”

Herbert is already on 2019 Heisman Trophy watch lists and, with Dillon Mitchell’s NFL departure, needs someone reliable to throw to. Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s receivers in 2018, something new wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight will be tasked with fixing.

[READ: First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now]

Johnson is coming off a season that was plagued with his own dropped passes, something he owned up to when asked about. Bouknight has implemented a new tactic to eliminate bad habits: when a player drops a ball, they also have to drop and do 10 pushups.

Johnson’s size isn’t his only asset. He brings needed experience to the position: playing in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran wide receiver, Schooler (21 games). He’s proved he can put up big numbers and play in big games; in 2017, he caught 54 passes for 701 yards and averaged 13 yards per reception. His spectacular sophomore season included a game-winning touchdown catch on fourth down as time expired at Iowa.

Johnson’s 81 receptions over his three seasons include 57 that resulted in a first down (70 percent).

"I’m here to be a leader," he said. "That’s my job here, come in and bring a leader and bring that energy to the team. I want to bring the guys up so we can win a Pac-12 championship, national championship and those sort of things."
Five Ducks on the roster have the last name Johnson, and as Juwan says, he’s still searching for his Oregon identity and nickname. Come August, could the fresh face become an Oregon household name? Will he separate himself from the other playmakers? The fight for playing time is on.

Big decision time: Four Oregon Ducks enter NBA draft

Big decision time: Four Oregon Ducks enter NBA draft

The Oregon men’s basketball roster could be looking very different next season.

Louis King, Payton Pritchard and Kenny Wooten will all declare for the NBA draft, as first reported by John Canzano. Who will actually take their talents to the pros and who will return? That will be decided in the next two months.

The three Ducks join freshman center Bol Bol, who has already hired an agent and made his decision official.

[READ: Bol Bol, worth the gamble?]

Making the decision to enter the NBA Draft and go through the draft process doesn’t mean all three won’t be wearing green and yellow next season. It’s called “testing the waters” for a reason, like dipping your toe to see if you might make millions or not. Totally relatable, right?

This news comes days after Oregon women's basketball star guard Sabrina Ionescu chose to pass on the opportunity to go pro

[READ: First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now]

Here is how it will go down for the Ducks before they have to decide on their future. Players invited to the NBA Combine can attend from May 14-19 and attend workouts hosted by NBA teams. The deadline for players to withdraw from the draft and return to school is June 10.

A new NCAA rule also allows prospects to hire an agent but terminate that agent relationship prior to May 29 and still be eligible to play in college. This will be very helpful when weighing whether to go back to Oregon or not.

Currently, King, who was a five-star recruit, is the most likely Duck to join Bol in the draft. His draft stock certainly climbed through Oregon’s run in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments after scoring in double-figures in each game and being named to the Pac-12 all-tournament team. The 6-foot-9 freshman forward has been listed as the No. 36 prospect in the draft by ESPN.

[READ: Oregon Ducks won't rule the basketball world without its King]

Pritchard also got attention from his postseason play. In seven postseason games, Pritchard took command of the team and averaged 16 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.4 rebounds.

Wooten swatted his way to 74 blocked shots and averaged 6.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season

The 6-foot-9 sophomore also tore up the postseason; blocking 10 shots in Oregon’s two NCAA tournament games and four blocks in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Neither Pritchard or Wooten are currently listed as a potential draft pick on any mock draft I could find. Most likely, it'll be all eyes on King. 

Next season could be destined for success after building on the 2018-19 season, which I view a success. After losing star Bol to a season ending injury, overcoming injuries to King and Wooten, Oregon finished the season with a 25-13 record and was the last Pac-12 team standing in the NCAA Tournament. No Oregon coach has more victories than coach Dana Altman (235 wins, 9 seasons), who also signed a contract extension through 2025-26. Oregon could return as many as seven scholarship players and add a top 10 recruiting class.

The NBA Draft is June 20. Be sure to check back all through April, May and June as Jamie Hudson brings you updated Mock Draft for the entire first round!

First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now

First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now

“Loss fatigue”… Have you heard of it? Some Oregon Ducks fans may be currently experiencing it like a persistent cold after Oregon women’s basketball came * this close * to a chance at its first national title. After missing 11 of their final 12 baskets, Oregon was inches away from beating top-overall seeded Baylor, who advanced to beat Notre Dame to claim the crown.

Sigh.

No doubt the Ducks community is very proud of the women’s team, who appeared in the program's first Final Four. However, * this close * doesn’t equal a national championship trophy. The University of Oregon hasn’t won a national championship in a sport besides track and field, cross country or golf since 1939 when men’s basketball won the first-ever NCAA Tournament.

Always the shiny (green, yellow, white, chrome, etc) contenders, never the champs?

2019 is the year that gives Oregon fans an excuse to dream of rings.

Two Oregon star athletes passed on the opportunity to turn professional and earn a paycheck because they thought the opportunities at Oregon were greater. It takes a certain player mold to take that risk and the Ducks are blessed with two elite athletes who could lead their teams to great success.

Yes, the paychecks were vastly different amounts, but guard Sabrina Ionescu and quarterback Justin Herbert both decided to walk away from the money on the table with the hope to accomplish more in Eugene, Oregon.

Projected to be the No. 1 pick in WNBA draft, Ionescu had 24 hours following Oregon’s loss to declare for the draft. The junior is chasing her own records already; holding the NCAA record for career triple-doubles with 18 and earning back-to-back Pac-12 Conference player of the year and first-team All-American honors.

Smashing goals is what she does. Her goal when she signed with Oregon as ESPN’s No. 4 ranked recruit was to change the program. The 5-foot-11 guard dreamed the Ducks would sell out Matthew Knight Arena and battle with the NCAA’s best on a national stage. She’s checked both those boxes.

With one more accolade in mind, the Oregon star opted to stay at Oregon.

“I think she’s left her mark,” twin brother Eddy Ionescu said. “Now her only goal is to win an NCAA championship for her team and the university."

With Ionescu’s return, Oregon has certainly cemented its foothold in the national spotlight and could enter the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll.

Her influence is larger than rankings and she is one-of-a-kind in the Oregon community. Her relatability is palpable and personality vibrant; kids, men and women wait after Oregon games for autographs and photos.

Those who chanted “One more year!” to Ionescu as the Ducks cut the nets in the Moda Center after winning the Portland Regional, got their wish.

“We have unfinished business. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Ionescu wrote in the Players Tribune. “My teammates and I, our coaches, our fans, this program — we’re not going on a ‘run,’ you know what I mean?? We’re not doing one of those things where, like, a team appears out of the blue, on the backs of a few good players, and then makes some noise for a season or two before heading back underground.

“Nah. This isn’t that. We’re building something special in Eugene.”

Ionescu’s return solidifies that the Oregon women’s basketball program has elevated it’s standard and discarded its “newbie” title among the nation’s elite. The Ducks return most of their team and a very determined Ionescu… The countdown to next season is on.

The countdown to watch Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels, is much shorter.

As a projected top 10 draft pick, why resist the NFL and give up literally millions of dollars? As Herbert said, “Nothing could pull me away from the opportunities that we have in front of us.”

Herbert took a risk by returning. The 2019 quarterback class is viewed as relatively weak and Herbert’s measurables alone would have made him one of the first quarterbacks off the board. However, there may be some reward for his risk, as some teams are already pondering if it’s worth it to wait to draft a quarterback in 2020.

Freakishly fast and athletic, returning for his senior season gives Herbert the opportunity to further develop his decision-making, accuracy and improve as an NFL prospect. 

The Eugene-native has a chance to play with his younger brother Patrick Herbert, a four-star tight end. At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, freshman Patrick Herbert’s strength is catching the ball in traffic. You could be hearing a lot of “Herbert to Herbert” ringing through Autzen Stadium.

[READ: Takeaways from Oregon football Hillsboro scrimmage: changed physiques, freshmen highlights and Duck “celebrities”]

Herbert’s decision to return provides him a chance to lead the Ducks back to national prominence and change the course of his legacy. A once dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate, he wasn’t even an All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick in 2018.

Oregon is likely be the favorite in the north division and the conference for 2019. The Ducks enter year two under head coach Mario Cristobal with a veteran offensive line, running back weapons CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, an influx of young talent at receiver, eight returning starters on defense and a few extraordinary freshman who could make instant impacts. Oregon's leading tacker each of the last three seasons, inside linebacker Troy Dye, will also return for his senior season. 

I’m not predicting that Oregon will win the National Championship next season, a Pac-12 title ring is much more likely. However, the urgency is on for Oregon football to take the next step and to make the most of Herbert’s senior season in the same way Oregon maximized Marcus Mariota’s return five years ago.

Mariota elected to stay for his redshirt junior season and subsequently won the program’s first Heisman Trophy, led Oregon to a Pac-12 title, a Rose Bowl victory and a trip to the National Championship game. Once again, the Ducks were * this close * to taking the first ever college football playoff crown.

Is 2019 the year Oregon loses * this close * from its vocabulary? Is 2019 the year Ducks fans can burn all the signs that have the “O” logo with “number of national championships” below it?

The answer is yes if you ask Ionescu or Herbert… and that is probably the cure to any “loss fatigue” you are feeling.