Oregon Ducks

How Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler's return changes the Oregon offense

How Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler's return changes the Oregon offense

Oregon’s offense and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo’s play calling have largely been criticized through four games of the 2019 season. While the lack of an established running game is extremely concerning, the continuously improving passing game is about to get even better.

Oregon’s passing attack could have three more weapons for quarterback Justin Herbert in the Ducks’ Pac-12 home opener against No. 15 California on Saturday, Oct. 5.

The No. 13 Oregon Ducks (3-1, 1,0 Pac-12) have nearly doubled their opponents in passing yards, 1,216 to 640, while scoring 16 passing touchdowns compared to two scored against. Herbert’s perfectly placed throws have often been jaw dropping and his numbers show it. Herbert has completed 74.4 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception through four games, a 14-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His quarterback rating is seventh in the country at 183.61 and that’s with five scholarship receivers out with injuries.

The Ducks receiving corps took hard injury hits before the season. Three of the hardest hits were losing graduate transfer Juwan Johnson (soft tissue injury), Mycah Pittman (shoulder injury) and Brenden Schooler (foot injury).

"The guys that we lost, they’re legitimate not only intermediate threats, quick game threats, they’re guys that can stretch the field," Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. "We certainly look forward to having those guys back and when you have guys like that back you feel like you can enhance a lot of the things that you do."

Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, practiced for the first time with the team on Wednesday in pads but wearing a non-contact jersey. The true freshman’s initial 6-8 weeks projection would mark Pittman healthy as early as Oregon’s game against the Golden Bears. Pittman implied a sooner rather than later return when he tweeted “2 more weekkksss!” on September 8.

Before the injury, he was turning heads and splitting first team reps at slot receiver. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body and excels at getting separation.

The best case scenario for Schooler’s initial rehab projection would also be vs. Cal. Cristobal expects the senior to practice for the first time on Thursday this week in Oregon’s second full-pad practice of the bye week. Schooler’s return will impact the offense, special teams and the intangibles through his veteran leadership.

Juwan Johnson, who has been practicing off and on throughout the season, has yet to play a down in an Oregon uniform. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver with an advantage in size and experience, is “day-to-day”, according to Cristobal, who says his injury has not worsened.

Juwan Johnson and Herbert’s connection intensified throughout spring and summer. Johnson brings needed experience to the position: playing in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran wide receiver, Schooler (21 games). Plus, 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.

The return of these three explosive targets adds options for Herbert and will undoubtedly enhance the passing attack in short, intermediate routes and down the field. The biggest area of improvement I expect will come in offensive plays of 20 or more yards. The Ducks’ 14 passing plays of 20-plus yards currently ranks 47th nationally. Herbert’s arm is capable plus Arroyo laments not attempting more downfield passes to Oregon’s inexperienced receivers in the Ducks’ loss to Auburn in week one. Since the defeat, the Ducks’ explosion plays have increased, in particular to tight end Jacob Breeland and wide receiver Johnny Johnson III.

Johnny Johnson III is leading the Ducks with 22 receptions, already a season-high in his UO career. After an up and down Oregon career, Johnson III said,  ‘Enough is enough. It’s my time,’ and has proved to be a reliable target this season. Breeland, who currently leads the Ducks in yards, totaling 265 yards on 18 receptions and five touchdowns, is a constant goal line threat.

Cristobal isn’t going to stray from his run-first, win the battle in the trenches, physical offense. Through four games, the Ducks are at a 50/50 pass to run ratio and the passing yardage (1,216) close to doubles the rushing yards (619). Yes, it’s been rough to watch the Ducks pound the ball time and time again with often limited success but the efficient passing game provides some relief.

With Juwan Johnson’s size, Pittman’s hands and Schooler’s speed, expect a more explosive and exciting Oregon offense that will stretch the field when the three targets return.

Marcus Arroyo, former Ducks OC, has high praise for Justin Herbert

Marcus Arroyo, former Ducks OC, has high praise for Justin Herbert

Sending love all the way from Sin City, one of Justin Herbert's former coaches has some high praise for one of the NFL's top prospects. 

Marcus Arroyo spent three seasons at the University of Oregon as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

From the sideline to the war room, no one knows Justin Herbert better than Coach Arroyo. 

Arroyo is now the head coach at UNLV, but he still has high praise for his former quarterback. 

Countdown is on for my man! Someone is about to get a great QB, but even a better person! - Marcus Arroyo

The NFL Draft is right around the corner, still scheduled to take place as planned starting April 23rd. 

Herbert is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, likely to be a Top 10 pick on draft night. 

Most mock drafts have Herbert going either No.5 to the Miami Dolphins or No.6 to the Los Angeles Chargers. 

In four seasons as the Ducks quarterback, Herbert passed for 10,541 yards and 95 touchdowns. 

His passing touchdowns are the sixth most in Pac-12 history, and he finished just 255 behind Marcus Mariota for the most passing yards in Oregon history. 

The stats, and the eye test, back up Coach Arroyo - someone is about to draft a great quarterback. 


Payton Pritchard impressed by young boy's dribble challenge emulation

Payton Pritchard impressed by young boy's dribble challenge emulation

Even though his historic college career may be done, Payton Pritchard continues to make headlines, even from his garage in West Linn.

Last week, the all-time winningest player in Oregon basketball history went viral for his impressive dribbling skills.

After the video spread around the web, many other people started trying the 'Payton Pritchard' challenge' to show off their skills, including his teammate Will Johnson and little sister Lexie Pritchard.

[RELATED]: The 'Payton Pritchard Challenge' spreads through social media

After the challenge grew in popularity, Pritchard released his full dribbling routine to help out people trying to improve their skills. After all, this drill set the foundation for the player he's today; a winner of four OSAA 6A State Championships, a Pac-12 Champion three of four years in college, a Final Four finalist, and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year. 

Now after releasing his routine, we may have found the best one yet from seven-year-old Blake Swedberg. It was so good, even Pritchard himself gave the young baller some much-deserved recognition.

Pritchard finished his senior season as one of the nation's elite, averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. The West Linn native is one of just four players nationally who led his conference in both scoring and assists and became the fourth player in conference history to do so, joining Gary Payton (Oregon State, 1989-90), Damon Stoudamire (Arizona, 1994-95) and Jason Terry (Arizona, 1998-99).

Next up for Pritchard is preparing for the NBA Draft currently scheduled for June 25, 2020 but is likely to be pushed back. 

Chargers appear to have fallen in love, but is it with Justin Herbert?

Chargers appear to have fallen in love, but is it with Justin Herbert?

All offseason leading up the 2020 NFL Draft the Los Angeles Chargers have been mocked to take Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick, assuming that the Miami Dolphins take Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall.

[RELATED]: The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

However, that may be changing given recent reports. 

In the latest scouting notebook from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, he reports that the Chargers have their eyes on another senior quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft: Utah State's Jordan Love. 

For months we've heard the Chargers will draft whichever quarterback the Dolphins don't, which was believed to be between Tua and Herbert. That could still be the case, but in a conversation earlier this week, one very well-connected scout mentioned that Jordan Love is a name to watch here. That's something I reported during Senior Bowl week—that the Chargers had a crush on the Utah State quarterback—and it could be coming full circle.

That the Chargers started crushing on Love at the Senior Bowl is puzzling given that the former Ducks signal-caller was named both the MVP of the week of Senior Bowl practices and the Senior Bowl itself.

[RELATED]: Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert...

Also, Tua and Herbert have been the consensus second tier of quarterbacks all offseason with some teams even having Herbert over Tua due to less medical concerns.

That the Chargers could see Herbert as the fourth-best quarterback in the draft doesn't make too much sense, considering his stellar draft process from impressing at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and his pro day. Given the Chargers' roster they can compete for a Super Bowl with a good quarterback this upcoming season and Hebert will give them the best chance to do so if they take him at six.  This seems like when the Bears overthought the Mitchell Trubisky pick rather than taking Deshaun Watson who had way more college success. 

But, if the Chargers are considering targeting Love as their quarterback of the future it could indicate they want to take a defensive player like Clemson's Isaiah Simmons at sixth overall and then trade up for Love into the back of the first round or early second round. But what if they just think Love is their guy and take him at sixth overall? That possibility could have been what Todd McShay was banking on when he bet $5,000 with Mel Kiper Jr. that Love would be taken before Herbert in the upcoming draft. 

The 6-foot-4, 225 pound Love finished last season with 3,402 yards passing and 20 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, while the 6-foot-6, 237 pound Herbert passed for 3,417 yards for 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The Oregon quarterback also led the Ducks to a 12-2 record, a Pac-12 Championship, and a Rose Bowl Championship in his senior season.

We will find out where Justin Herbert will begin his professional career on April 23, when the NFL Draft may be going virtual

Tennessee Titans offer hollow farewell to Marcus Mariota in social media post

Tennessee Titans offer hollow farewell to Marcus Mariota in social media post

While it may not have ended like both sides hoped when the franchise spent the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on the Heisman winner, there also appears to be little bad blood.

After former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota officially signing with the Las Vegas Raiders to be the NFL's highest-paid backup quarterback, the Tennessee Titans posted to Instagram to thank the best player in Oregon football history.

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Mahalo Marcus. 🤙🏽

A post shared by Tennessee Titans (@titans) on

The farewell gesture seems like a nice gesture at first glance. But, when you look at their other social media posts to other players, including Delanie Walker and Jurrell Casey, Marcus Mariota seems like an after thought. 

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A Titan Great ⚔️

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Casey received not one but two posts, one which was a full page quote from Titans GM Jon Robinson. 

Even Delanie Walker got a nice quote in his post. 

Marcus Mariota got the equivalent to "it is your birthday" written on a cake. 

Sure, Mariota's time didn't pan out how both parties expected. He showed flashes throughout his professional career, including an impressive sophomore campaign when he threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with a career-best 7.9 yards-per-attempt until a broken leg ended his season. His junior season saw massive regression as he threw 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while playing through a hamstring injury. That regression would continue into his fourth season under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. 

Mariota had a 29-32 record in 61 games as a starter with 13,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions.

Then he was benched and was considered the scapegoat for the Titans problems. Still, after being benched, Mariota was a consummate professional until the end. Head coach Mike Vrabel praised Mariota's professionalism throughout the season. Basically, Vrabel was just happy Mariota didn't make his life difficult. 

Mariota signed with the Las Vegas Raiders where he hopes to find stability while getting a chance to compete for the starting position in Las Vegas, but he knows that it is David Carr's team going in.

[RELATED]: Marcus Mariota reveals why he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders

Mariota deserved more. He deserved better. And hopefully he'll get that with the Raiders.  

Sabrina Ionescu explains the worst part of the season getting cancelled

Sabrina Ionescu explains the worst part of the season getting cancelled

Early on Friday morning, Sabrina Ionescu once again did something no one in an Oregon uniform has ever done before.

Ionescu became the first player from Oregon to win the Naismith Trophy for the National Player of the Year.

The 2020 Naismith Trophy winner jumped on a video chat with CBS Sports and the Naismith presenters to accept the award.

This was truly a historic year for Ionescu: First player to reach 2,000+ points, 1,000+ assists and 1,000+ rebounds; NCAA leader in career triple-doubles (26); spoke at her dear friend Kobe Bryant’s memorial; completely changed the game of basketball forever…

When looking back on such a terrific season in Eugene, Ionescu listed these highlights specifically that stood out to her. Typical Ionescu, they are all team highlights, not individual.

- Beating Team USA. Who could have forgotten that? The Ducks defeated the best professional players in the country, 93-86 on their home court of Matthew Knight Arena back in early November. It was only an exhibition game, but it was a win that set the tone for the rest of the season.

- Beating Stanford. Not one, not two, but three times this season, the Ducks handled the Cardinal. Once at home, once on the road, and once in the Pac-12 Tournament Finals.

- Civil War champs. This was a first for the Kelly Graves - Sabrina Ionescu era who had never won in Corvallis. Oregon beat in-state rival Oregon State twice in Pac-12 conference play.

- Pac-12 Tournament Champs. Oregon took care of business during Pac-12 play and took care of business at the Pac-12 Tournament. 

This team was different. It may have started with Ionescu, but the talent ran deep and will continue to do so for years to come. 

When asked what Ionescu loved most about this special season and this special team, she had nothing but love for her teammates.

We were so close. Every single player loved every single player. We played for each other and I think going through those ups and downs of the year, we grew together. And so, being able to play alongside them was a blessing and it’s definitely the worst part not being able to play anymore is just not being able to play with them. — Sabrina Ionescu

Taylor Chavez, Oregon Ducks wonder what could have been at the Final Four

Taylor Chavez, Oregon Ducks wonder what could have been at the Final Four

April 3, 2020.

A date marked on the calendar for Oregon women's basketball and their fans for nearly a year.

When Sabrina Ionescu returned to Eugene for her senior season in an Oregon uniform it was under the pretense of 'Unfinished Business.' To avenge the Ducks' loss to eventual National Champion Baylor in the 2019 Final Four, and win a National Championship.

But they needed to take care of business to get back to that stage, and they did.

Pac-12 Regular-Season Champions. Pac-12 Tournament Champions. Nation's No. 2 overall ranking. Clinched no NCAA Tournament games out of Oregon until the Final Four. Getting a chance to avenge their last season's end was all but guaranteed for the program.

That was until the spread of COVID-19 shut down the world of sports causing the NCAA to cancel all winter and spring championships, including the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, producing arguably the greatest what-if in Oregon athletic history. 

Now, on the day they should be avenging last season and competing to make the program's first-ever National Championship game, the Ducks are sitting at home in quarantine. Wondering what could have been, including sophomore Taylor Chavez.

The season's cancellation has to sting extra for Chavez who had to sit out last season's tournament with a foot injury.

The Ducks were confident heading into the tournament as well since they believed this was their season to win the National Championship, including senior Minyon Moore who was not shy saying how she felt.

When the NCAA's verdict came through and the team realized their dream season was finished, Chavez tweeted that the top four ranked teams in the country organize their own Final Four.

Even people not on the team are disappointed in the way this past season abruptly ended, including Oregon linebacker Troy Dye and defensive end Kayon Thibodeaux.

Oh, what could have been...

Mario Cristobal names Tyler Shough QB1 at the end of spring football

Mario Cristobal names Tyler Shough QB1 at the end of spring football

One of, if not the, biggest question heading into the 2020-2021 Oregon football season is who will be Oregon’s next starting quarterback? 

The hometown hero Justin Herbert is off to the NFL and has left behind big shoes to fill. 

Mario Cristobal enters his third season as head coach, the Ducks are coming off a Pac-12 Championship and victory in the 106th Rose Bowl. They landed the No. 1 linebacker in the country, Justin Flowe, along with the No. 13 ranked recruiting 2020 class. 

The hype is no joke. But losing your quarterback and offensive coordinator in the same year is not always an easy transition. 

Cristobal then hired Joe Moorhead away from Mississippi State to become Oregon’s next offensive coordinator. That's one hole filled. Next up, the heir to the Herbert throne.

It probably doesn’t come as a complete shock to hear redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough’s name continue to pop up.

At the start of spring practice in early March, Tyler Shough was the guy to beat. At the end of spring practice, which was cut early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyler Shough remained the guy to beat.

I can’t emphasize enough how fired up we are about Tyler [Shough]. He entered spring football as the starter. He leaves the spring as the starter. — Mario Cristobal 

Shough was Herbert’s true backup for the past two seasons. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound quarterback from Chandler, Arizona saw action in five games (53 snap total) last season and completed 12-of-15 passes for 144 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The consensus four-star prospect has waited his turn and earned the QB1 spot. Not to forget he is the only quarterback on Oregon's roster with actual collegiate experience in green and yellow.

However, Shough taking over the reins may not be certain as Cristobal has also stated that competition only makes players better. 

On Wednesday, Oregon signed Boston College grad transfer quarterback Anthony Brown.

[RELATED]: Oregon Ducks embrace culture of competition with transfer of QB Anthony Brown

The addition of the three-year starter at BC sowed some doubt into the presumptive status of Shough as QB1.

Not to mention, there's incoming quarterbacks Jay Butterfield, a four-star pro-style quarterback from Brentwood, California, and dual-threat quarterback Robby Ashford, another four-star prospect from Hoover, Alabama. 

It's going to be a crowded and very talented QB room in the fall.

Once football starts up again, this will be a very interesting position group to follow. 

But for now, it is Shough’s position to lose.

Eugene, Oregon is becoming a sports Mecca with hosting the 2021 World Championships

Eugene, Oregon is becoming a sports Mecca with hosting the 2021 World Championships

Tracktown USA will never be the same. It only keeps growing not just on a national scale, but global.

It is a big deal that the United States, and more specifically Eugene, Oregon, landed the 2021 World Track and Field Championships at historic Hayward Field.

Former Oregon Track and Field star and Olympian Ashton Eaton joins the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent.

Here is an idea of the scale of this event:

The World Championships was a plan that was in the minds of folks who were building up the Oregon track program, Hayward Field and the ‘Tracktown’ idea years ago. And so, in order to get to that point, the 2008 Olympic Trials had to be had, 2012, 2016 and now 2021. So these things were all not random. They were leading up to this moment of bringing the entire world of track and field to Hayward Field, to Eugene, Oregon. -- Ashton Eaton

It was not a coincidence. It was not random. It was pre-planned and thought out to have Eugene be the home to such a prestigious world showcase.

It’s one of the biggest sporting events in Oregon history making it one of the biggest deals, I think in sport and Oregon history. Oregon is solidifying itself as definitely a track and field Mecca in the United States, but I think it’s starting to become almost a sport Mecca too where you see investment in these facilities, investment in these global events. — Ashton Eaton

The event will start on Friday, August 6, 2021 and will end on Sunday, August 15, 2021.

If you drive by Hayward Field today as it stands today, you may notice that it looks drastically different. The facility is getting a face lift, which comes at an abomination to some but a positive change to others. Some may even ague that if Hayward did not go through these modern renovations, the World Championships wouldn’t have even considered Eugene a host site for the event.

But Tracktown USA is only getting better and better.

You can listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below:

Ashton Eaton advises fellow Olympian athletes to take advantage of this extra time

Ashton Eaton advises fellow Olympian athletes to take advantage of this extra time

Sometimes, the best kind of training is to re-train not just your body but your mind.

Finding a new way to train for a sport can be high beneficial in the long run.

That is the exact advice that former Oregon Duck Track and Field star and Olympian Ashton Eaton would give to other Olympians who had their Olympic training interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would say, you have to use pretty much every adverse scenario as an athlete somehow to your advantage. Every step backward could potentially be a step forward. This could be an opportunity for you to really get more prepared for the Olympic Games. — Ashton Eaton

So I think you can use this ‘extra time’ if you will, to your advantage and just focusing on your training and getting better. — Ashton Eaton

You heard it also on the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with Oregon men’s basketball guard Payton Pritchard. Since being forced inside with the StayHome initiative, Pritchard has continued sharpening his craft and doing his dribbling routine in his garage while also running the hills of West Linn, Oregon.