At Oregon football practice, senior quarterback Justin Herbert lines up, commanding the quarterback unit with precise stretching, smiles and quiet high-fives. Lingering nearby, a Los Angeles Rams scout dutifully watches him.
The Eugene-native is months away from making millions in the NFL but first he has major goals in mind at Oregon. Intentionally or not, Herbert’s passion in his final season is bestowing major impact on the future of the Ducks program.
Back-up quarterback Tyler Shough is watching, emulating and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Besides learning from Herbert’s physical mechanics, Shough (rhymes with "Duck") has been impacted on how to carry yourself during practice and take command during a game.
Shough’s reliability illustrated reason to be confident in his role as back-up and a future starting Pac-12 Conference quarterback… A statement Oregon fans haven’t been able to rely on in over five seasons when former Duck Bryan Bennett transferred, the beginning of a slew of many, many, many transfers in and out of the position group.
The No. 15 Ducks got its most substantial glimpse of Herbert’s likely successor in Oregon’s 77-6 win over Nevada. The redshirt freshman threw his first college pass and finished 8-of-9 for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Shough took over in the third quarter and while he didn’t drop any jaws with downfield throws, he did display solid decision making, showed his accurate arm and toughness under pressure.
“He’s got the traits you are looking for at quarterback. In regards to command, personality, understanding the game and work ethic,” Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “Tyler has had those since he was a recruit… You can see his physical tools that will enable him to be successful, moving forward.”
The 6-foot-5, 220 pound passer made a couple heads up plays, including one flick to tight end Spencer Webb while getting blitzed on third and nine and showed off his mobility with a 11-yard run. Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal reflected that if Shough hadn’t been tripped up, he would have gone for more.
“I come off as a tall, lanky guy that’s not super fast but I can be sneaky fast,” Shough said. “I’ve been working on it a lot this offseason so it is kind of nice to get into those scenarios.”
Oregon’s likely 2020 starting quarterback’s first college completion was a quick screen pass to the perimeter to junior Jaylon Redd for a seven-yard touchdown. After playing in three games in 2018 without attempting a pass, what will Shough remember most about the moment?
“My teammates and sharing that moment with them,” Shough said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Shough has been grinding in the Oregon weight room and with the second string for over a year and a half. The consensus four-star and top 300 prospect enrolled early in January of 2018 to get a jump start.
“Me and Tyler have some history,” said wide receiver Daewood Davis, who recently moved back to the position from defensive back. “When I was at receiver (last season), that was my guy, I was a two, he was a two. Man, me and Tyler have a connection. Seeing Tyler now, he’s grown up, matured and his arm is a lot stronger, his motion is a lot smoother. He’s a force to be reckoned.”
Since joining the Duck football program, Shough’s added 10 pounds of muscle and stole the show in Oregon’s spring game. Last May, he returned to Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz, where he earned academic honors and finished with a 4.0 plus GPA, to walk in his graduation.
His Instagram game has stayed the same- photos of the blonde-haired blue-eyed quarterback with friends and family, playing football and exploring the outdoors.
Herbert doesn’t have social media. If he did, his teammates say it’d be photos of the four “fs”: family, friends, fishing and football.
While Herbert and Shough’s social media would be similar there is one big difference between them… Experience.
This Saturday against Montana, Shough will likely get some more of that.
Shough was nearly perfect in his most substantial playing time in a Duck uniform, now he holds a chance to build off his performance against the Grizzlies.