Oregon Ducks

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. 

How New York Liberty’s Asia Durr not playing in 2020 impacts Sabrina Ionescu

How New York Liberty’s Asia Durr not playing in 2020 impacts Sabrina Ionescu

Sabrina Ionescu will make her long-awaited and highly-anticipated WNBA debut this month after getting selected No. 1 overall by the New York Liberty back in April. 

As the 12 teams begin to gather in the WNBA ‘bubble’ at the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, Florida, to begin play starting on July 24, one of Ionescu’s teammates will not be joining the team.

Asia Durr, the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, has chosen not to play for the remainder of the 2020 season.

After much thought and consultation with my doctors and the Liberty, I have decided not to play the 2020 WNBA season. After testing positive for COVID-19 on June 8, my battle with it has been complicated and arduous. As I continue to fight and fully recover, I had to make the difficult decision on a deadline to opt out as a medical High Risk player. — Asia Durr

[Listen and download for free Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football].

Asia worked extremely hard this offseason to put herself in position to take a major leap forward in her second WNBA season. While we are disappointed that we will need to wait a bit longer to see her emerge as one of the bright young players in the game, we fully recognize and support the difficult decision she had to make amidst unprecedented circumstances. Brooklyn will be ready for her in 2021. — Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb

Despite having her rookie campaign cut short by injury last season, Durr averaged 9.7 points per game starting in 15 of her 18 appearances.

This also adds a tad more pressure on the shoulders of Ionescu. 

Ionescu and Durr, the likely backcourt duo of the future for the Liberty, played on the same USA National Team. The two won a gold medal together in the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. 

[RELATED]: Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu rocks Liberty march for first time

The WNBA announced on June 15 that the teams will finish out the 2020 season with a 22 regular-season competitive schedule followed by a traditional playoff format. These 22 games would have given Ionescu and Durr the opportunity to get acquainted on the court once again and demonstrate to the rest of the WNBA what the future looks like in New York. 

The Liberty posted a 10-24 record in 2019, finished outside the playoffs, landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 and had their sights set on selecting the best player in college basketball. 

Looks like New York’s talented backcourt duo of Ionescu and Durr will be unleashed in 2021.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Sasha Spencer Atwood].

The Oregon Ducks will roll with their secondary over anyone else

The Oregon Ducks will roll with their secondary over anyone else

Oregon's projected to have one of the nation's best defenses next season with the crown jewel being a stacked secondary that finished second in the country with 20 interceptions last season.

The Ducks return all players from that unit and will add five-star cornerback Dontae Manning in 2020.

In fact, former Oregon Ducks safety Anthony Newman claims that the upcoming secondary can be the best secondary the program has ever seen.

[RELATED]: Why the 2020 Oregon Ducks secondary could be the best yet

Newman isn't alone in his praise.

ESPN NFL draft analyst and Executive Director of the Reese's Senior Bowl Jim Nagy tweeted Sunday morning that Oregon defensive backs Deommodre Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. are among the best pairs in the nation.

Side note: With them both being seniors next season, they should expect invites to the Senior Bowl. 

Be sure to download and listen for free Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football

Additionally, NFL Network draft analyst Ben Fennell agreed, calling the Oregon secondary the nation's best.

Nagy's praise caused Graham Jr. to make a simple proclamation: The nation will take notice sooner than later.

He went on to say he would take his secondary over any other one.

A sentiment echoed by fellow Duck, 2021 four-star cornerback commit Jaylin Davies. 

However, nose tackle Jordon Scott had a minor correction to Graham's point.

He has a point, given the returning talent on defense along with two incoming five-star linebackers, the Ducks are projected to have the nation's second-best defense next season according to ESPN's SP+ metric. 

[RELATED]: Oregon football projected to have nation's 2nd-best defense in 2020

Lenoir later gave the Oregon secondary their name a la "The Legion of Boom," in N.I.A. for "NOTHING IN THE AIR." 

It has a nice ring to it and makes sense to boot. 

Of the top ten returning Pac-12 football players ahead of the 2020 college football season, Pro Football Focus has three of them as members of Oregon's secondary: Jevon Holland at No. 2 (the nation's best slot corner per PFF), Mykael Wright at No. 4, and Thomas Graham Jr. at No. 8. 

This doesn't even include returning senior Deommodre Lenoir, who forwent the NFL Draft to return to school, Rose Bowl Defensive MVP Brady Breeze, Nick Pickett, and Verone McKinley. 

Soon all of college football will know their name. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

Oregon fans, players shut down hot take that Walker Little is better than Penei Sewell 

Oregon fans, players shut down hot take that Walker Little is better than Penei Sewell 

There’s no offensive lineman in college football better than Penei Sewell right now. Period. 

Sewell took home top honors for the nation’s top offensive lineman as 2019 Outland Trophy award winner and was just the third Duck to be named a unanimous All-American in 2019. Even his Pro Football Focus every-down numbers prove he stands above the rest. 

The scary part? That was only his sophomore season and Sewell is just scratching the surface on his potential. 

In a recent game of Fact or Fiction, Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell and national recruiting analyst Adam Gorney shared their takes on whether Stanford’s Walker Little could push Oregon’s Penei Sewell as the best offensive tackle in the Pac-12 in 2020. 

Let’s just say Oregon players and fans didn’t appreciate Walker in the same conversation as the 6-6, 335-pound monster left tackle. 

Ducks safety Bennett Williams shut down the claim immediately. “Stop the slander,” Williams said in a post on Twitter. 

Oregon tight end Spencer Webb had one simple response to the comparison: “Delete the tweet.”

The trolling continued…

  

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For those who didn’t read the article, both Farrell and Gorney called the take “fiction,” noting Sewell’s special and rare athletic abilities. 

“I like Walker Little a lot and I think he comes back from injury with a vengeance this season,” Farrell said. “But better than Penei Sewell? Sewell is the best OL prospect for the NFL Draft I’ve seen in a few years and should be a top five pick next year. The Pac-12 has some great lineman this upcoming season and these two could be 1-2 in the country. But Sewell is far and away more special.” 

Gorney added, “There’s almost no doubt that if Sewell was eligible to be drafted that NFL last April, he would have gone in the top five. Now he has another year to dominate in college football and other than some quarterbacks high on the list, no one is higher than Sewell.”

OK, so neither Rivals.com reporter was actually suggesting Little is better than Sewell, but that tweet did feel like a reach. 

Rest assured Ducks Nation, Sewell is still college football’s best. He's a likely Heisman Trophy candidate in 2020 and will have a bright future for years to come after being tabbed a top-3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

Calvin Throckmorton delivers this powerful statement on Fourth of July

Calvin Throckmorton delivers this powerful statement on Fourth of July

While protests against police brutality and racial oppression took place in the United States over the holiday weekend, Calvin Throckmorton took to social media on Fourth of July to deliver a powerful message.

The former Oregon offensive tackle drew attention to Independence Day and used the holiday to remind his followers that true sovereignty has yet to be achieved for all.  

This 4th of July it is important that we all recognize that not all those who call this country their home have the same freedom. Our brothers and sisters of color continue to suffer from systemic oppression that has existed since and before our country became “free.” 

I stand with all those who are oppressed and will fight with them until we may all benefit from the same freedoms together. – Calvin Throckmorton 

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The powerful statement was retweeted by many current and former Oregon student-athletes including Troy Dye and Satou Sabally.  

Oregon football head coach Mario Cristobal shared the post with the comments, “purpose driven & powerful statement.”

Throckmorton is usually a pretty quiet guy on social media, but this was a matter the New Orleans Saints offensive tackle refused to stay quiet about. 

And he’s not the only one. 

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard recently told NBCSNW that he believes it’s crucial for conversations around current social injustice movements to continue. 

The All-Star point guard, who has attended a Black Lives Matter march in Portland, says the NBA has a real opportunity to use its platform to advance discussions around social and racial injustices as play resumes in Orlando this month. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

Four-star 2021 wide receiver Isaiah Brevard commits to the Oregon Ducks

Four-star 2021 wide receiver Isaiah Brevard commits to the Oregon Ducks

More talent is headed to Eugene. 

2021 composite four-star wide receiver Isaiah Brevard committed to the University of Oregon on his Twitter Saturday afternoon.

Oregon beat out Baylor, Missouri, Texas A&M, Florida State, Penn State, Georgia, and others for Brevard's commitment. 

Rankings are all over the place for the 6'4", 200-pound prospect as he's the nation's No. 140 overall player and No. 25 WR per composite ranking. ESPN has him as the nation's No. 7 wide receiver, nation's No. 61 overall player, and a four-star prospect. Rivals also ranks him as a four-star as the nation's No. 16 WR and No. 116 overall player. 247Sports, however, ranks him as a three-star prospect and the nation's No. 80 wide receiver. 

Despite that, the verbal commitment of Brevard moves Oregon ahead of USC and LSU to the nation's No. 5 recruiting class nationally and the best one in the Pac-12. 

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Heading into May, head coach Mario Cristobal said that he thought the 2021 recruiting class could be the best one yet and that they were "big-game fishing." It certainly appears that way, especially on the offensive side of the ball with Oregon getting arguably the best collection of offensive talent in the nation.

[RELATED]: Oregon four-star QB commit Ty Thompson wants the nation's best offense

247Sports recruiting analyst Brian Dohn predicts that Brevard will be a "power-5 starter" with the potential to be a late-round NFL draft pick. 

Big frame with wide shoulders. Carries 200 pounds like 185. Has ability to play at 215. Uses length and size well against smaller defensive backs. Tracks ball well and has strong hands. High-points ball and is true red zone threat. Catches and secures football quickly. Has good feel for game. Instinctual player. Solid route runner. Willing blocker who works down field. Does little things and is unselfish. Decent speed. Must be more consistent with releases at line of scrimmage. Needs to explode out of breaks more consistently. Adding upper body strength important. Multi-year starter at Top 20 program. Day 3 NFL draft potential.

So far this recruiting cycle, Mario Cristobal's hire of former South Carolina assistant coach and 2014 247Sports Recruiter of the Year Bryan McClendon to coach wide receivers in Eugene seems to be paying off as the Ducks are on pace to have the best wide receiver class in program history.  

Four-star Kyron Ware-Hudson (nation's No. 22 WR) committed back in December and five-star Troy Franklin (nation's No. 2 wide receiver) committed to Oregon last week.

Additionally, they're the favorites to land four-star Dont'e Thornton (nation's No. 6 wide receiver) who won't commit until the Adidas All-American Bowl in January. 

Previously, the program appeared to be a lock for four-star Xavier Worthy but he pushed back his commitment, now set for July 10th, and is considered to be a Michigan lean. 

[RELATED]: Meet the 2021 Oregon Ducks recruiting class so far

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

You can watch Brevard's highlights here.

Galen Rupp excited for what's in store at Tokyo Olympics

Galen Rupp excited for what's in store at Tokyo Olympics

“It’s everybody’s dream to be an Olympian. Everybody’s hungry. Everybody’s trained a little bit harder and is going to be on their A-game.”

Those are the words of Galen Rupp, a Portland, OR native and University of Oregon alumnus who is one of the more recognized northwest Olympian names. 

The Oregonian attended Central Catholic High School where he won back to back cross country titles in 2002 and 2003 and three individual championships in track and field. Rupp attended the University of Oregon where he earned 14 All-American honors and five individual championships. And in February, Rupp won the US Olympic Men's Marathon Trials! 

Rupp qualified for his fourth consecutive Olympic Games after running 2:09:20 in the Atlanta qualifier. The two-time Olympic medalist won by 42 seconds. 

But his journey to Tokyo was abruptly halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has delayed the Summer Games until 2021. 

Rupp is among those featured in NBC Sports Northwest’s  campaign to honor local Olympians and Paralympians from the Oregon and Washington areas, which began yesterday on Father’s Day and runs through Saturday, July 4.

The multiplatform campaign will highlight local athletes through profiles and vignettes, which are presented by your local Northwest Toyota dealers. 

[RELATED: Timeline of Historic Hayward Field through the years]

Athletes who will be highlighted throughout the campaign include:

  • - Long-distance runner and five-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp
  • - USWNT player and three-time Olympic gold medalist Shannon Box
  • - Decathlete and 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Dave Johnson 
  • - Fencer and four-time Olympic medalist Mariel Zagunis
  • - Sled hockey player and 2014 Paralympic gold medalist Rico Roman
  • - Goalball player and two-time Paralympic medalist Jen Armbruster

[RELATED: New Hayward Field is complete and it looks absolutely stunning]

And while Rupp’s 2020 dreams were delayed a year, he’s still excited about the opportunity to go to Tokyo. 

I haven’t spent a ton of time in Tokyo. I’ve been on the outskirts, so I’m really excited to see the city. But, I know it’s going to be an unbelievable event. 

“Every Olympics is different, but they’re all special. I’m excited to see what Japan and Tokyo has to offer.”

You can see more Olympic profiles and vignettes here

Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu rocks Liberty merch for first time

Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu rocks Liberty merch for first time

The moment you’ve all been waiting for is here. 

We are finally getting a look at Sabrina Ionescu in her New York Liberty threads and we need a Liberty seafoam green jersey...STAT!

[RELATED: Justin Herbert sports new Chargers gear in return to Oregon]

The No. 1 draft pick and former Oregon Duck took her swag level to the extreme in the Liberty’s latest post which features Ionescu in mint and then again in black on a Times Square-esque billboard. 

It’s no surprise her brand new jersey sold out from the WNBA merchandise site in less than an hour. Take a look:  

Be sure to download and listen for free Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football

The Ionescu threads became so popular that some shops began selling jersey t-shirts as a lower-cost alternative to rep the G.O.A.T. 

This isn’t the first or last time Ionescu has made wearing a women’s basketball jersey a pretty big deal. Nike began making her Ducks jersey in November 2019 and sold out within the first two hours.

Nike made it official with the triple-double queen after she moved across the country to join the Liberty, signing Ionescu to an endorsement deal. Now, WNBA fans all across the country can rep Ionescu with pride even when there’s no game. 

In her four-year college career, the Oregon sensation became the first player in NCAA history, male or female, to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career. Ionescu took home two Wooden Awards given to the nation’s top college player and quickly vaulted as the nation’s premier college basketball player. 

She returned to Eugene for her senior year in hopes of pursuing a national championship. The Ducks were a projected No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to COVID-19.

Ionescu never completed her “unfinished business” at Oregon, but soon she’ll be fulfilling another dream come true as she steps on the court at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, as a member of the Liberty. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

Justin Herbert sports new Chargers gear in return to Oregon 

Justin Herbert sports new Chargers gear in return to Oregon 

Chargers clothes have always looked good on Justin Herbert. Ever since he was nine years old, he’s donned his favorite team’s gear proudly

But now that Herbert’s officially a quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, the feeling is becoming more surreal for the sixth-overall pick and all the fans who have watched him thrive during his football career. 

With NFL training camps not starting until late July, Herbert returned to his old stomping grounds of Sheldon High School to get in a workout. In a photo he shared on Instagram, he is rocking a new Chargers helmet…and it looks sick.

View this post on Instagram

The boys are back in town

A post shared by Justin Herbert (@justinherbert) on

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The helmet is part of the sleek uniforms the L.A. Chargers unveiled ahead of the upcoming 2020 season at the new SoFi Stadium.

Herbert hasn’t had much time to build relationships with his new teammates since becoming a member of the Chargers two months ago. OTAs and rookie minicamps went virtual this year due to COVID-19 and the NFLPA has encouraged players to halt private in-person workouts for the time being. The first time he will officially join his Chargers teams on the field is in late July, when training camp ensues. 

[RELATED: Justin Herbert among Ducks, Beavers on new season of Hard Knocks]

Herbert certainly has his work cut out for him if he wants to beat Tyrod Taylor for the starting gig, but at least we know the rook will rock the bolt while doing it. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

 

Former five-star recruit CJ Walker to transfer out of Oregon

Former five-star recruit CJ Walker to transfer out of Oregon

The Oregon Ducks men's basketball team always has plenty of turnover between teams and this offseason is no different.

However, usually, it's the Ducks taking in highly sought after transfers but this time it's the other way around.

Oregon Ducks forward CJ Walker has announced he has entered the transfer portal with the intention to be closer to his hometown of Sanford, FL amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, per his Twitter.

"As the coronavirus has tragically continued to spread across this country forcing our Nation into lock down it has given me a lot of time to think about my future and what's in the best interest of my family and our health -  both physically and mentally," wrote Walker. 

"These past few months have been tough on everyone, and I understand this will be a long battle ahead. During this pandemic I'm also heavily dealing with ailing family members who are high risk with underlying conditions living back in my hometown of Sanford, FL.

"There is so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the upcoming season, and even if one will be played next year. I have decided the best decision I can make for both my mental and physical health is to return home to be close to my family and my support system." 

The 6'8", former five-star recruit averaged 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in 28 appearances, including seven starts, for the Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks last season. 

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With the departure of center Francis Okoro, Walker was expected to earn a lot of playing time as a small-ball center next season as a sophomore. Unfortunately for the Ducks, he's decided to pursue other opportunities with the ultimate goal of becoming an NBA player.

"[I'll] continue to train and work at becoming the best basketball player I can be, to get back to a positive and healthy mindset, and to keep working towards my ultimate goal of becoming an NBA player one day," Walker stated. "During this process I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal to be able to properly weigh all options while this pandemic continues on."

Coming out of high school, Walker was the No. 28 overall player in the country and the sixth-ranked power forward. Before choosing Oregon, he named a final-three of Oregon, LSU, and Miami.  His hometown of Sanford, FL is 251 miles north of the University of Miami. 

Florida has been experiencing another outbreak of the coronavirus in wake of re-opening, including a new one-day record for cases of 9,585 positive test results, for a total of 132,545 total cases. Hospitalizations have hit 14,136, according to the Florida Department of Health with nearly 3,400 dead. 

We at NBC Sports NW wish Walker nothing but the best. Once a Duck always a Duck. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].