Oregon Ducks

Justin Herbert aiming to shed same pre-draft labels as Marcus Mariota


Justin Herbert aiming to shed same pre-draft labels as Marcus Mariota

INDIANAPOLIS – Something struck me during the latest Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast while Bleacher Report’s senior NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller was breaking down Justin Herbert.

Among the knocks against Herbert includes a sentiment that the former Oregon QB might not be vocal enough to lead an NFL offense. That’s a large part of the conversation surrounding Herbert this week at the NFL Combine.

“He’s got to go in and prove that he’s the type of leader that teams want,” Miller told NBC Sports Northwest. “Those are the knocks that you hear about him, that he’s kind of quiet and might be a little reserved. You don’t have to be Baker Mayfield, but you have to be a leader at quarterback. I think he has to answer those questions.”

That sounds awfully similar to what Marcus Mariota’s critics said about him during the pre-draft process back in 2015. Remember Mariota was also thought by some to be too quiet to warrant a top five pick, especially when compared to the gregarious Jameis Winston.

Mariota ended up going No. 2 overall and quickly became the beloved leader of the Tennessee Titans. He ultimately faltered, was replaced by Ryan Tannehill in 2019 and now faces an uncertain future, but all of that resulted because he failed to get the job done from a physical standpoint.

And yet here we are having the same conversations about another Ducks signal caller. They will continue as Herbert leaned into the criticism during his Combine press conference.

“When I showed up (at Oregon), I was shy and didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and the quarterback can’t be that,” Herbert said. “To be a successful team, you have to have a quarterback that’s himself. He’s got to be genuine and real, and he needs to demand from his offense, from the team, what he needs to get out of them. I’ve done a better job of being vocal, stepping up and stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Herbert is coming off of a fantastic senior season in 2019 where he posted 3,471 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also impressed as a runner with four additional scores on the ground. Herbert led Oregon to a 12-2 season that culminated in a Rose Bowl victory against Wisconsin.

He carried that momentum into a successful week down in Mobile, Ala., back in January.

“When I watched him at the Senior Bowl, I watched him interact with guys. I watched guys come up to him,” NFL Network’s Charles Davis told NBC Sports Northwest. “I think (the criticisms) might be a little overblown. It feels like it’s not as bad as many people think.

“Quiet people can be competitors, too.”

Herbert measured in at 6-foot-6, 236 pounds with 10-inch hands. He’s got all the size and physical tools to be a franchise quarterback, which is why he’s projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. That doesn’t change the fact that teams will grill him during interviews on his capacity as a leader.

“I’m a different person,” Herbert told reporters. “I think the kid that showed up at the University of Oregon isn’t me anymore. There are aspects of my game that have changed. I’ve become more vocal. I’ve become more outgoing and there are things you have to do to be a quarterback and the way a quarterback carries himself. I think I’ve done a great job of becoming that over these past four years.”

Herbert’s progress is notable, and all that ultimately matters is that he has the confidence to get the job done in the NFL. He said he hasn’t spoken with Mariota during the pre-draft process but the two have established a friendship in recent years.

Of note, between Mariota and any other quarterback prospect who once carried the label of being “too quiet,” Davis hasn’t seen one fail in the NFL for that reason.

“I’ve never seen that, and I’ve never felt that way about head coaches, but they get that, too. Remember Tony Dungy, his critics said he didn’t have the fire to win the big one,” Davis said.

The more legitimate questions about Herbert pertain to his transition to a pro-style offense. Herbert, as well as most other QB prospects for that matter, didn’t operate in a huddle or take snaps from under center in college.

But again, Herbert remains confident in his NFL readiness.

“I think the (Oregon) offense did a great job of preparing us for the NFL, and a lot of stuff fell on me to flip protections (and) to change runs,” Herbert said.

The former Duck figures to be the top QB prospect working out this week in Indianapolis. Joe Burrow announced that he won’t be throwing at the Combine, and Tua Tagovailoa is still recovering from a hip injury. That gives Herbert a prime opportunity to steal headlines and cement himself as the third quarterback on draft boards.

“I want to come out here and I want to do everything, have fun, get better, learn,” Herbert said. “I think it’s all about the long haul so anything I can do to extend my game is what I’m going to do.”

Former Duck Arik Armstead urges followers to help Sacramento restaurants

USA Today Images

Former Duck Arik Armstead urges followers to help Sacramento restaurants

Arik Armstead played college football for the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Oregon and moved to the Bay Area, where he is one of the stars on the San Francisco 49ers daunting defensive line. 

But his hometown of Sacramento, California will always hold a special place in his heart. 

It’s why the recently re-signed defensive end has asked his Twitter followers and Instagram followers to do their part in helping small businesses in his hometown. 

“As you all know Sacramento is my hometown that I love deeply and is home to some of the best restaurants in US,” Armstead said in a post on Twitter. “What you may not know is Sacramento is comprised of over 60% small business (mainly restaurants) that are struggling during this difficult time.”

In effort to support the community, Armstead asked his followers to take photos of food they’ve purchased from their favorite Sacramento restaurants for a chance to win 49ers tickets, memorabilia and more. 

View this post on Instagram

As you all know Sacramento is my hometown that I love deeply and is home to some of the best restaurants in the US. What you may not know is Sacramento is comprised of over 60% small business (mainly restaurants) that are struggling during this difficult time. Many of these restaurants are offering dine-out and delivery options to try to stay afloat. In order to support local, I am rewarding people who support their local restaurants during this time. Buy food from one of your favorite Sacramento restaurants and be entered to win GAME TICKETS , AUTOGRAPHED MEMORABILIA + MORE INSTRUCTIONS ⬇️: . 1. Comment your favorite Sacramento restaurants in the comments 2. Post a picture via story or timeline of your meal using #Eat91Six + tag restaurant 3. Tag @sacnina91 & @unitesac916 so we can share & promote the Sacramento restaurant 4. 5 qualified winners will be randomly chosen Wednesday April 1 via my Instagram Story (unlimited entries)

A post shared by Arik Armstead (@sacnina91) on

It’s easy to enter. Simply use the hashtag #EAT91SIX on Instagram or Twitter when you share a photo of the food you ordered and tag or mention the restaurant. 

Here’s a couple of Armstead’s favorites if you are in the Sacramento area and looking for inspiration. 

Before Armstead was a Pac-12 Champion with the Ducks, he attended Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, a community 15 miles outside of Sacramento. He’s given back to the community on numerous occasions through his Armstead Academic Project, which provides workshops and school supplies for those in need in the Sacramento public school system. 

Oregon football DL Jordon Scott helping out the youth and homeless in Florida

Oregon football DL Jordon Scott helping out the youth and homeless in Florida

In times like this, any help is a big help.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting everyone, no matter the situation, and Jordon Scott is stepping up.

The Oregon football senior defensive lineman, along with his mom, are doing their part in the Florida community in this troubling time by handing out pizza, chips and soda to the youth and homeless of South St. Petersburg.

Scott embodies what it means to be a 'Man of Oregon.'

It’s approximately a 26-minute drive from St. Petersburg to Largo, Florida, where Scott is from.

The 6-foot-1, 325-pound defensive tackle announced in January that he would forgo the 2020 NFL Draft and return to Oregon for his senior season, along with Austin Faoliu, Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir.

He appeared in 14 games as a junior and recorded 14 solo tackles, 18 assisted tackles and zero sacks. Despite those relatively small stats, Scott draws a lot of attention and double teams from opposing offensive lines. 

ESPN to air WNBA Draft on main network after social media backlash

ESPN to air WNBA Draft on main network after social media backlash

Thursday morning, ESPN announced that the  2020 WNBA Draft will go on as scheduled but a previously planned in-person draft will now take part remotely without players, fans or media in attendance. 

{RELATED: Here's how Sabrina Ionescu will be selected in the upcoming WNBA Draft]

However, the network also announced that the Draft will air on ESPN2... despite sports being canceled or suspended due to the coronavirus. 

When prior drafts aired on ESPN's secondary network, it made sense to do so due to ESPN airing the NBA games on their main network, but that season has been suspended until further notice.

Fans on social media felt that ESPN has no excuse to not air the draft on their flagship station with no competing events happening, including the presumed first overall selection, Sabrina Ionescu.

It wasn't the first time college basketball's all-time leader in triple-doubles has criticized the network for their treatment of women's sports coverage.

However, after the response from social media, ESPN has admitted their mistake and has chosen to now air it on ESPN, according to Dan Bernstein of the Sporting News.

After the change in tune, people gave credit where credit was due.

Oregon Ducks teammates Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard are also expected to be taken in the first round along with Ionescu. 

Here's how Sabrina Ionescu will be selected in the upcoming WNBA Draft

Here's how Sabrina Ionescu will be selected in the upcoming WNBA Draft

The WNBA Draft is going virtual.

The league announced Thursday morning the 2020 WNBA Draft will continue on as scheduled, but the previously scheduled in-person draft will now take part remotely without players, fans or media in attendance. 

Does this mean we’ll get to see a hologram Sabrina Ionescu step on stage when the New York Liberty selects her as the No. 1 overall pick? It’s not likely, but if hologram Tupac can perform at Coachella, the sky is the limit.

According to a statement from WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, the league will work with ESPN to “create a memorable but virtual event that appropriately honors these accomplished athletes.” 

This means players will not be allowed the tradition opportunity to hear their name called, walk across the stage and hold their new team’s jersey for the first time. The logistics of the draft night event are still being worked out, but it’s more than likely a player like Ionescu would videoconference in when her name is called.

In addition to the triple-double queen, Ionescu’s teammates Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard are also expected to be selected in the first round. Minyon Moore could hear her name called in a later round. 

The WNBA says it also plans to honor Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester, Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed on Jan. 26 in a helicopter accident.

Ionescu spoke at Kobe and Gianna’s public memorial one month ago and shared what an impact her mentor and mentee had on her career. Just hours later, she became the first college player, male or female, to register 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 boards in her college career.

The virtual WNBA Draft will take place on April 17 at 5:00 p.m. PT on ESPN2. 

Sabrina Ionescu named a finalist for the prestigious Wade Trophy

Sabrina Ionescu named a finalist for the prestigious Wade Trophy

Seems like not a day passes without Sabrina Ionescu either winning a postseason award or being named a finalist for another prestigious award, and with good reason!

On Thursday, Ionescu was named a finalist along with Dana Evans (Louisville), Tyasha Harris (South Carolina) and Aari McDonald (Arizona) for the Wade Trophy.

The Wade Trophy — now in its 43nd year — is the oldest and most prestigious national player of the year award in college women’s basketball. It is named in honor of the late, legendary Delta State University head coach Lily Margaret Wade, who won three consecutive national championships with the Lady Statesmen. First awarded in 1978 by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), now known as SHAPE America, the The Wade Trophy has been presented to the WBCA NCAA Division I National Player of the Year since 2001.

Should Ionescu win, she would join elite company of other two-time winners Nancy Lieberman (1979, 1980), Seimone Augustus (2005, 2006), Brittney Griner (2012, 2013), and Breanna Stewart (2015, 2016).

Maya Moore (2009, 2010, 2011) is the award’s only three-time recipient.

While the senior continues to rack up postseason awards, there are still a few more left on the table: Ionescu is also a finalist for the Naismith Trophy and is a frontrunner for the Wooden Award, which she took home last year along with the Wade Trophy. 

She is also a finalist for the AAU James E. Sullivan Award, the Senior CLASS Award and the Nancy Lieberman Award for the nation’s top point guard.

Colts traded for DeForest Buckner to combat against Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson

Colts traded for DeForest Buckner to combat against Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson

It’s not always who you trade, but how the deal gets done. 

This is evident in the recent trade of former Oregon Duck DeForest Buckner, who went from the San Francisco 49ers to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

What message did this trade send to the rest of the AFC? The former first round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft spent the first four seasons of his professional career in San Francisco. While he had a down year in 2019, the 6-foot-7, 300-pound defensive lineman was still highly productive and disruptive through his first three seasons, which featured a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018 .

Buckner is a problem, in the best way imaginable, and that might just be reason enough why the Colts sought after him.

We hear about this all the time: For example, the Jets, Dolphins and Bills won’t have to deal with Tom Brady running the AFC East for the next two years. 

The AFC quarterback situation is tough enough with the young, three-headed monster that is Lamar Jackson (Baltimore), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Deshaun Watson (Houston).

Instead of using Indianapolis’s 13th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on perhaps the quarterback of their future (after getting shell-shocked by Andrew Luck’s retirement and as they don’t have any at this moment under contract after next season), the Colts used that pick and traded for a defensive lineman. A good one, yes, but still. This trade meant more than just the future of their franchise, but also that the Colts want to win and win now.

The Athletic’s Zak Keefer discussed this more in a recent article:

And don’t think for a second Mahomes and [Texans quarterback Deshaun] Watson didn’t factor into this trade. [Colts general manager Chris] Ballard knows the QBs in the AFC his team will have to face in the coming years, how dangerous they are in and out of the pocket and the quickest way to corral them: with pressure straight up the middle. That’s precisely how Buckner got a solo sack on Mahomes in the Super Bowl. That’s why the Colts brought him to Indy. — Zak Keefer

After signing quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year worth roughly $25 million dollar deal, one can put the pieces together that they weren’t planning on drafting a quarterback this season. At least, not in the early rounds. Plus, it would be unlikely Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert would fall to them at No. 13.

NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Brian Witt also contributed his thoughts on the trade:

In acquiring Buckner and Rivers -- and the money spent to do so -- the Colts essentially are risking their long-term future for a chance at immediate contention. — Brian Witt

Case in point, the Colts want to win and think they can do so this upcoming season. The 49ers? Perhaps thinking more long term.

Payton Pritchard named Lute Olson National Player of the Year

Payton Pritchard named Lute Olson National Player of the Year

Sabrina Ionescu isn't the only Duck taking home a  National Player of the Year award.

After becoming the Oregon Ducks men's basketball program's first consensus All-American in 80 years, senior guard Payton Pritchard has been chosen as the Lute Olsen National Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com. The award is given to the nation's best Division I basketball player. 

Pritchard became the first Pac-12 player to win the award. 

After pondering leaving for the NBA, the Pac-12 Player of the Year decided to return for his senior season in green and yellow and one goal in mind: be the best.

I carry it from last year, this confidence is high and I just wanted to come back this year and... prove a point that I am not only the best point guard in the country but the best player in the country.

Well, one year after returning to school, he's proven just that. 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 is leading his conference in both scoring and assists and is trying to become 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).

Pritchard also became the winningest player in program history earlier this season.

[RELATED: Don't take Payton Pritchard for granted, he's an all-time Oregon great]

Plus, he got to celebrate a Pac-12 championship with a devoted following at Matthew Knight Arena.

After the championship-clinching game, Pritchard addressed the crowd and thanked the University of Oregon for granting him "the greatest experience of [his] life."

With a veteran team, one of the nation's best coaches in Dana Altman, and arguably the country's best player in Pritchard, who knows what kind of noise the No. 13 Oregon Ducks could have made in the NCAA Tournament. 

Sabrina Ionescu named USBWA National Player of the Year

Sabrina Ionescu named USBWA National Player of the Year

Another day another national player of the year accolade for the G.O.A.T. 

Two days after being named a First-Team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association, they have chosen Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu as their National Player of the Year, officially titled the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award.

The senior is the first Duck to ever win the award.

Sabrina Ionescu is one of the most well-rounded players on both ends of the floor. Her leadership on and off the court stands out, and her ability to make everyone around her better sets her apart. She has grown and developed her game every year, and I am disappointed that she was not able to finish out her senior year and give her Oregon Ducks a chance to win a national title. I am very proud to have Sabrina receive the 2020 Ann Meyers Drysdale USBWA Player of the Year Award. -- Ann Meyers Drysdale, in the USBWA release.

Other finalists for the award were Lauren Cox (Baylor), Rhyne Howard (Kentucky) and Megan Walker (UCONN) and Ionescu's teammate Ruthy Hebard.

The G.O.A.T. has been collecting awards nonstop since the abrupt ending of the NCAA basketball season due to the coronavirus including being named the unanimous Associated Press women's national Player of the YearFirst Team All-AmericaPac-12 Player of the Year, and more. 

Ionescu ended her college career the all-time leader in triple-doubles (26) and the only player ever to record 2,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds, and 1,000 career assists. She led the nation with a career-high 9.1 assists per game while averaging 17.5 points and a career-high 8.6 rebounds per game.

Next up for Ionescu? The WNBA Draft where she's the heavy favorite to be on her way to the Big Apple after the New York Liberty selects her with the first-overall pick in the WNBA draft lottery.

As of now, the draft is still scheduled for April 17. But with the NBA shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s uncertain whether the draft will still take place or at what capacity.

Oregon WBB ranked outside top-10 in way too early 2020-2021 preseason rankings

Oregon WBB ranked outside top-10 in way too early 2020-2021 preseason rankings

The biggest question heading into the 2020-2021 season for Oregon women’s basketball is how to replace the Big 3 of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally?

From the minute these three entered the Matthew Knight Arena building, the Ducks program shifted onto a new path and established Oregon as a national powerhouse. A changed program forever. 

So how do you replace the talent and caliber of these three? Well, you may never, but signing the No. 1 recruiting class including five five-star caliber players might help, and that’s exactly what Oregon head coach Kelly Graves did.

[RELATED]: Each of Oregon WBB’s 2020 recruits wins their state’s Player of the Year award

On Wednesday, ESPN came out with their way too early preseason poll for next year.

Surprising or not, Oregon was ranked outside of the top-10 at No. 11 in the poll:

1. South Carolina

2. Stanford

3. Mississippi State

4. UConn

5. Baylor

6. Louisville

7. Arizona

8. NC State


10. Maryland

11. Oregon

Other Pac-12 schools to note: No. 13 Oregon State.

Does that seem too low? Too high? Just about right? The hole Oregon’s Big 3 leaves behind is definitely deep, but will it be one that the Ducks’ returners, lead by Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year Taylor Chavez, sharp-shooters Jaz Shelley and Erin Boley, along with a solid bench and talented recruiting class can climb out of?

It is definitely a possibility with Graves, as talented as head coach as they come, and a solid core group he gets to work with. Graves took over as head coach back in April 2014. He has experience coaching without Ionescu, Hebard and Sabally on the floor. 

Only time will tell for the 2020-21 Ducks.