Suddenly, Spencer Webb is Oregon football’s Mr. Popular. His teammates hoot and holler “Spider!” (their nickname for the tight end turned wide receiver) as media crams in a circle, talking over one another to ask a question to Webb. The redshirt freshman has a natural ease with the questions, similar to a senior, joking, smiling and joyously recounting his viral first touchdown as a Duck.
Under pressure in the first quarter versus Auburn, quarterback Justin Herbert proceeded through four to five progressions before getting hit while throwing the ball 20 yards into the end zone.
His target? The 6-foot-6 Webb, who came over the top of Auburn corner back Javaris Davis to snag the jump ball, knocking Davis to the ground and stepping over him in Allen Iverson fashion.
The viral moment happened on accident.
“I was getting to my teammates,” Webb said. "He happened to be on the ground so I stepped over him, went to go celebrate my teammates. Was not disrespectful or anything, just trying to have fun… I didn’t expect it to blow up as big as it did but it did.”
Webb’s success, however, is not by chance. After witnessing Webb’s grind through his redshirt season, his teammates knew it was only a matter of time before his hard work in the weight room and on the scout team would show up on the football field.
"That's when you get ahead," Webb said. "(Redshirt season) is a jump start on all those other freshmen who are complaining. When you're catching up (to the veterans), they're stepping back."
On May 2nd 2019, Webb posted a photo on his Instagram, running through four Oregon defenders during the Ducks’ spring game. The caption reads: “A lot of weight on my shoulders, but I’m built for this...”
On Saturday, August 31st in Oregon's prime time season opener, with injuries mounting at the wide receiver position, Webb shouldered the weight, catching Oregon’s only touchdown pass, producing a successful grade in the ‘next man up’ test. He finished with three receptions on 28 yards.
Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo laments not attempting more downfield passes to the inexperienced receivers.
"I think probably looking back you'd probably say probably not protecting those young guys who were out there, who had to go in and step in, probably not protect them and see if we cut it loose a little more," Arroyo said.
Webb delivered as the big-bodied target Herbert desperately needed against the Tigers. His versatility and strong hands are proving valuable. A month ago, the Ducks listed Webb as their fifth tight end. He crept up depth chart before coaches elected to move the former four-star recruit into the slot.
"He’s very natural in space,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “And when the opportunity arose with all of the injuries that transpired we felt, ‘You know what, let’s give this thing a look.’ As well as Patrick Herbert… Those are two big bodies, they’re very athletic, natural route runners, catch the ball really well. So both those guys will continue to grow in these particular situations and positions to see if they can help us out more.”
Webb bulked up to 250 pounds to play tight end this season- gains he’s since lost since moving to receiver.
"I like being out there, I feel free,” Webb said. “It's just natural for me and I like it."
Webb is a natural long-range passing attack weapon. The No. 1 rated tight end in California averaged 17.6 yards per catch as a senior. He finished with 23 touchdown catches with 61 receptions and 1,063 receiving yards, including four three-touchdown performances for Christian Brothers High School in the Sacramento, California area.
Scientists say spider webs are five times stronger than steel. With a depleted receiving corps and coaches expanding his role, Spencer (spider) Webb’s strength will be tested as a needed target for Herbert.