Oregon Ducks

Taggart hopeful Burmeister will improve in time for UCLA

Taggart hopeful Burmeister will improve in time for UCLA

Will the third start for Oregon freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister be the charm?

Oregon coach Willie Taggart certainly hopes so. His options at quarterback are limited with sophomore Justin Herbert out again for this week's game at UCLA (3-3, 1-2). It will either Burmeister or redshirt senior Taylor Alie. Despite two losses in which the Ducks scored a combined 17 points, it appears that Taggart will stick with Burmeister as the starter and hope that playing near his hometown of La Jolla, Calif., will inspire him to perform better. Even after two subpar performances by Burmeister, Taggart doesn't believe his first quarterback recruit's confidence has waned. 

"I just think he's got to play better," Taggart said. 

Through two starts, and a quarter of play the night Herbert went down against California, Burmeister has completed 19 of 36 passes (52.8 percent) for 172 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. He's rushed for gains of 69 yards with a net of 27 after deducting yards mostly lost on sacks. 

While few people, if any, expected Burmeister to match the production of Herbert when he started as a freshman last year, it was reasonable to expect that the four-star recruit would at least perform like a potential future starter. He has not. Yet. Taggart still believes Herbert will improve. 

"Just being sure when you go back and throw," Taggart said. "We've got to make sure from a practice standpoint that we put him in those situations more often than what we do."

Burmeister is not reading defenses well, is making poor decisions and when he does throw the ball, isn't displaying much accuracy aside from the occasional moment here and there. He looks like a quarterback who has very little confidence in what he is doing.

Already down 21-7 in the first quarter, Burmeister had a pass intercepted when he forced a throw to running back Tony Brooks-James who was running a wheel down the left sideline. On the play, running back Kani Benoit can be seen running wide open to the left on a swing route. Also, slot receiver Charles Nelson could be found wide open running a dig route from left to right. 

While finding and hitting Nelson might have been a high-end read, reading wide receiver Brenden Schooler on the post route to Brooks-James and then down to Benoit is relatively routine. But Burmeister failed to recognize the multiple black jerseys that flew deep leaving Benoit uncovered. 

These types of easy plays must be corrected in order for the offense to start clicking again. Burmeister can't turn what should be an easy throw for a first down into a forced interception, especially when he isn't under pressure. 

"We don't need for him to win the football game for us but we definitely can't turn the football over," Taggart said.

The lone bright spot for Burmeister is his running ability, and important skill for Taggart's offense.  

"I thought he did a good job running the football," Taggart said. "That's the one thing he looked really comfortable doing."

Taggart will take that every time. Running after a play breaks down is certainly better than forcing a bad pass. 

"You don't have to make all of the plays, just make the right play for us," Taggart said. 

All of the mistakes Burmeister has made, Taggart said, are correctable. He said the coaches have to do a better job of putting him in easier situations he is capable of executing. Then, it's up to Burmeister to settle down and play good football. 

"Just go out and have fun and don't put too much pressure on yourself," Taggart said. "Then things will workout."

The loss that could win it all for Oregon softball

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NBCSNW staff

The loss that could win it all for Oregon softball

Let’s rewind the clock to Thursday night. No. 1 Oregon softball hosting the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats in game one of Super Regionals in front of a sellout crowd at Jane Sanders Stadium. Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Kleist calmly and cooly strikes out the first Wildcats batter, and all was right in Eugene, OR. But things took a turn real quick. Kentucky came to play and came away with a 9-6 victory over the home-town favorites to take game one of this best-of-three series vs. Oregon.

A gut-check for the Ducks. An unnerving feeling settling in. One more loss from not advancing to nationals. A must-win the next night. 

With a “backs against the wall” mentality, Oregon dug in and did not phase one bit. The Ducks went on to win 6-1 Friday evening and then an 11-1 run-rule win today to advance once again to the College World Series. 

The Ducks learned two very important lessons that Friday night that just may pay off in Oklahoma City, home of the WCWS. The first: what it feels like to lose. The second: how to bounce back from it.

The Ducks now have a taste of what it feels like to lose at this level of play, face adversity, and fight with their backs against the wall. Yes, the Ducks had three conference losses earlier in the season. But the Ducks have not experienced a loss at this caliber. Not with the season on the line and the possibility of not playing one more game.

“This is probably the best time that it could happen to us as a team,” said Oregon senior DJ Sanders on the timing of Thursday night’s loss. “Even during regionals, I don’t think we played as well as we should have or could have. So we thought, ‘ok maybe this is the wake up call we need to come out and play like we know we can or how we should be,’ so really the first game was probably the wake up call that we needed.”

“Certainly I think every team has a gut-check,” said Oregon coach Mike White. “…It happens a lot. You either got to persevere in those moments and come back and believe in what you’re doing or you go home. And so I think the finale of all, this team stepped up and that’s what you got to do, have to do.”

We learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes, and for the Oregon Ducks, those lessons, how to look adversity in the face and overcome it, may just punch a ticket into the national championship.

Backs against the wall, Oregon softball shows no fear

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NBCSNW staff

Backs against the wall, Oregon softball shows no fear

Backs against the wall, feathers ruffled, a must-win situation, Oregon softball had quite the test in front of them Friday night in front of a sell out crowd at Jane Sanders stadium. In the biggest test of their season, the Ducks are in a win or go home situation down 0-1 in a best-of-three series to the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats in NCAA Super-Regionals. After giving up nine runs on 10 hits in last night’s loss, many wondered how and if the Ducks would bounce back because Oregon had not been put in a situation like this all season long.

The Ducks haven’t given up that many runs since playing at the Arizona Wildcats in April 2017.

It was a different story tonight. Oregon came in focused, fired up, feeling good, and defeated the Wildcats 6-1.

“Just a much better overall performance, especially defensively. We made some big plays,” said Oregon coach Mike White. “You could tell we were fighting for our lives. That’s what we had to do with our backs up against the wall. I was really proud of our team… hopefully tomorrow we can do the same thing.”

“It was there and I didn’t want it to be,” said senior infielder Jenna Lilley on dropping the first game vs. Kentucky. “You have to acknowledge that that’s the reality of it and what we’re playing for to keep our season going. So definitely the thought was there but do everything we can to not let that happen.”

Freshmen sensation and home-town kid Lauren Burke has not phased a bit in her first postseason play as a collegiate player. Burke, from Marist High School here in Eugene, Oregon, has batted 5-for-6 with seven RBI’s and two homers this postseason.

But this is not over quite yet. One down, one to go. Oregon softball must have back-to-back wins over the Wildcats to advance to the college World Series. One more game tomorrow evening, 6 PM, and Jane Sanders stadium.

Will the same team that came in focused in game two repeat itself in game three? Or will the momentum swing back to Kentucky’s side as it did in game one? Softball fans are in for a real treat tomorrow night with a trip to nationals on the line.

 

Oregon softball shakin’, not stirred

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NBCSNW Staff

Oregon softball shakin’, not stirred

Four errors. Nine runs given up. 10 hits allowed… a rather uncharacteristic night for the No. 1 seeded Oregon Ducks in round one of the NCAA Super Regionals. The No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats, coming off run-ruling all three of their opponents last weekend, the bats were hot and junior Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Kleist was tested early and often. Kleist did not seem like her usual self, and besides striking out the first Kentucky batter, had a rough first inning giving up a three-run homer to Wilcats' ace hitter Abbey Cheek.

The Ducks offense did manage to put up six runs on the night, but the defense did not hold giving up four errors on bad throws.

“We know our backs are up against the wall right now,” said coach Mike White following the game. “It makes it pretty simple: we have to come out and win otherwise our season is done. I thought our team fought hard, we never gave up, we battled until the last out, unfortunately it didn’t work out today. Hopefully tomorrow it can be a different story.”

Oregon will face a do or die situation tomorrow in this best-of-three series with the Wildcats already down 0-1. 

“Kentucky, I give them a lot of credit, they came in here and they came to play. So like coach says, pretty simple, you win or you don’t,” said senior catcher Gwen Svekis.

Oregon must flush this game and move on. Focus on the task at hand, do all the little things right, and flat out win tomorrow. With their backs against the wall, how will this team respond? 

“Now, it’s what we do tomorrow and the next day that matter the most,” said White. “How are we going to bounce back? Sure we had a bad game, but if we want to be the national champions and be the number one team in the country, we need to be able to come back from this. Plenty of teams have done it before. We need to be fired up and come out and play a better game.”

Oregon softball has both the steak and the sizzle

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USA Today Kelvin Kuo

Oregon softball has both the steak and the sizzle

The No. 1 overall seeded Oregon Ducks are built on a foundation of experience. Players like seniors Gwen Svekis, Jenna Lilley, and Lauren Lindvall who have been in the national tournament before. Post-season success relies on experience such as this. But it doesn’t stop there for the Ducks.

Coach Mike White and his staff have made quiet the effort in terms of recruiting and can be seen with the electric underclassmen on this Oregon roster. 

For starters, first baseman Mia Camuso was second on the team last year with 47 RBI’s. Camuso is just a sophomore. Outfielder Shannon Rhodes made her name known last season with her powerful hitting, also just a sophomore. Haley Cruse finds herself sitting higher in the batting order this year in post-season play, combined with her speed, rounds out this impressive sophomore class. 

Two freshmen in particular really jump off the roster. Local kid Lauren Burke out of Marist High School, Eugene, Oregon, hit a two-run homer in the Ducks’ first game vs. U Albany to boost Oregon into round two of the NCAA Eugene regionals. Backing up senior Svekis behind the plate is freshman Mary Iakopo, who looks as confident as ever behind the plate, has a deadly arm, and a threat at bat as well.

Speaking on the freshman and sophomore class, coach White said, "They are putting a lot of pressure on the upperclassmen... we are loding a great senior class and that next class has to be ready to go... That's what we try to do: to have depth."

This roster has potential all-around, but the most solid group of all has to be on the mound. Pick your poison between Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year junior Megan Kleist and sophomore stud Miranda Elish, both with ERA’s under 1. On top of that, sophomore Maggie Balint proved last season as just a freshman that she can make quiet the impact as well. Elish and Kleist allowed zero runs over the course of regionals weekend.

The Oregon Ducks await the winner of the Lexington region to be played next weekend in super-regionals.

After 'OK' season with Ducks, Troy Brown thinks he is ready for NBA

After 'OK' season with Ducks, Troy Brown thinks he is ready for NBA

CHICAGO –Troy Brown’s only season at the University of Oregon didn’t go as he planned.  Not only did the team not make the NCAA Tournament, the heralded wing was only good, and not great, on the court.

Even so, after averaging 11.3, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Ducks, Brown said he saw enough in himself to declare for the NBA Draft.

“I would say it was OK,’’ he said of his freshman season in Eugene. “It wasn’t the best year, or the year I wanted. Every kid dreams of going to college and being the star player, but we all go through our ups and downs, and it’s one of those things I learned from, and I feel I matured from.’’

He said he feels the up-and-down tempo of the NBA will better suit his offensive game and complement his defensive versatility. NBA scouts seem to agree as Brown is projected to be a mid-to-late first round selection.

“I can do everything on the court,’’ Brown said. “I feel like I can score the ball really well, but at Oregon that wasn’t my (role). We had a lot of guys who could put the ball in the hoop. I was more of a glue guy, and I was ok with that. I was fine just showing my versatility and doing the hard stuff - rebounding, guarding the best player, diving for loose balls and stuff like that.’’ 

The 6-foot-7 Brown appears to be the type of hybrid player that is becoming valued in today’s NBA game – long, athletic and able to guard several positions. The knock on his game – his outside shooting – has been a point of emphasis in his predraft workouts. 

“The more repetitions, the better,’’ Brown said. 

He said he is embracing the undefined nature of what position he will play in the NBA, noting that the league is trending more toward positionless basketball. 

“I feel like coming out of college everybody sees me as a small forward, but I can still make my way up to whatever position my coach needs me to do to get the W,’’ Brown said. “That’s what I’m willing to do.’

Four players from Oregon and Washington schools who will make an impact in the NFL

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USA Today Images

Four players from Oregon and Washington schools who will make an impact in the NFL

BY TIM KEARNY 

There were nine players drafted from the University of Washington, the University of Oregon and Washington State University in this NFL draft. I have picked four of them that I think will play well in their first year.

Vita Vea, DT Washington- Tampa Bay Bucs, 1st round 12th pick

Vea is an absolute monster on the defensive line. His strength is hard to match and he will have some success with his bull rush as a pro as a rookie. Vea really shows his special ability by how quick he is, he is a smooth athlete even at more than 330 pounds. I believe his first step will still be enough to gain leverage against other linemen in the NFL and I think he could get 5 or 6 sacks his year. He was a First-Team Pac-12 player this year, and won two more Pac-12 defensive linemen awards as well. The Bucs believe in his playmaking ability too, they proved how highly they thought of him by picking him 12th overall. There is no chance for a defensive lineman to go that early unless he can get to the quarterback.

Royce Freeman, RB Oregon- Denver Broncos, 3rd round 7th pick

The Broncos grabbed one of the most dynamic and consistent playmakers at the running back position in the third round with Freeman. His nickname of “Rolls Royce” shows how smooth he can look as he is making plays with the ball in his hands. Did I mention he has more rushing touchdowns in his career than anyone else in Pac-12 history, and is in the top ten all time rushers in the NCAA? C.J. Andersen is no longer the lead running back in Denver so the door is open for Freeman to snag the starting spot over the inconsistent Devontae Booker.

Cole Madison, OG Washington State- Green Bay Packers, 5th round 1st pick

Madison’s number one trait is his athleticism, he moves better than most people his size and even people smaller than him. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers running the show so the offensive line benefits from hi mobility and quick release, this could help Madison make an impact if given the chance early on. Things are unsettled on the right side of Green Bay’s o-line and Madison could be a guy that impresses in training camp and gets the starting gig.

Tyrell Cosby, OG Oregon- Detroit Lions, 5th round 16th pick

Cosby was a First Team Pac-12 player this past season and according to Pro Football Focus did not allow a single sack or quarterback hit in 2017. Many people see his run blocking as his strength and he is very good at it but pass blocking will get him a job in the NFL. The Lions have not had a great o-line in a long time and this is another attempt to bolster it by finding the last piece. I can’t believe Crosby was still on the board in the middle of the fifth round, so he was a bit of a steal in my book. I think he could play tackle or guard for them as a fill in guy this year.

Oregon softball may just crack the National Championship code

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NBCSNW

Oregon softball may just crack the National Championship code

Oregon softball may just have the formula for a National Championship and it starts on the mound.

14 strikeouts. 77 pitches with 61 strikes in seven innings. Zero runs. Just a glimpse into the life of Oregon Ducks sophomore pitcher Miranda Elish in game one of the NCAA Eugene regional vs. u Albany. Elish took command of the game right away going three up, three down in the first inning leading the Ducks to a 4-0 victory over the Great Danes.

But this is nothing new. Elish has been doing this all season long. The Ducks head into the post-season as the No. 1 overall seed behind the stellar one-two punch on the mound of Elish and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, junior Megan Kleist. The consistancy of Elish and Klesit have propelled the Ducks to a Pac-12 conference championship in an already gruesome conference with constant top-10 national caliber teams.

Both Kleist and Elish were also selected this season to the First Team All-Pac 12. 

Oregon finished with a 47-7 overall record, a 21-3 conference record, and an overall No. 1 seed in the USA Today poll, heading into the NCAA post season. 

When deciding who would get the starting nod vs. U Albany, coach Mike White said, “We’ve got two number one’s out there…It could have gone either way.” Having not one, but two pitchers in your arsenal combined with the power off the bats for Oregon softball, could call for a deep tourney run…

 

Ducks coach Mario Cristobal announces staff promotions

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USA Today Images

Ducks coach Mario Cristobal announces staff promotions

EUGENE, Ore. – University of Oregon Head coach Mario Cristobal announced title enhancements for three members of his coaching staff on Thursday.

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo has added assistant head coach to his duties. Safeties coach Keith Heyward has added co-defensive coordinator duties to his role entering the 2018 season. In addition to being the associate head coach/defensive line coach, Joe Salave’a will now also serve as co-defensive coordinator/run game coordinator for the defense. The duo will work alongside defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who handles the play calling.

“I’m very happy to announce these promotions for Marcus, Keith and Joe ,” said Cristobal. These guys have played a critical role in the advancement of the program, helping us establish an identity and culture. I have a ton of belief in them as teachers and coaches in the game of football and in life.”

Arroyo joined the Ducks in February of 2017 as co-offensive coordinator while coaching the quarterbacks and tight ends. He was promoted to offensive coordinator this past December. In his first season with the Ducks, the Oregon tied for the Pac-12 lead with seven games of 40-plus points. Oregon is the fifth stop for Arroyo as a play caller, having already done so with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Southern Mississippi, Wyoming and San Jose State.

Veterans of the Pac-12 Conference as both coaches and players, Salave’a and Heyward were part of Leavitt’s defensive staff in 2017 that provided an immediate improvement over the previous year. The Oregon defense made major jumps in nearly every statistical category, highlighted by total defense (from 115th to 46th).

Entering his second season leading Oregon’s safeties room, Heyward has coached defensive backs at four different Pac-12 schools and was an All-Pac-10 cornerback at Oregon State. Prior to Oregon, he was the secondary coach at Louisville in 2016.

An All-Pac-10 defensive lineman at Arizona before playing in the NFL for eight seasons, Salave’a spent five seasons at Washington State prior to arriving in Eugene. While at Washington State, he served as the defensive line coach all five years and was the assistant head coach the final two.

Get to know Oregon’s newest wide receiver, Tabari Hines

Get to know Oregon’s newest wide receiver, Tabari Hines

Welcome to the flock. It was just last week that former Wake Forest star Tabari Hines announced his intentions to leave the Demon Deacons and take his talents to Eugene.

The 5’10”, 175lb wide receiver instantly helps bring some much needed talent and depth to Oregon’s receiving corps. Junior Dillon Mitchell had a productive 2017 for the Ducks, and hopes to build on that in 2018, but the rest of the group is young and unproven.

Hines looks to change that.

As a junior last season at Wake Forest Hines led the team with 53 receptions, and was third on the team with 683 receiving yards and seven scores.

To put that in perspective, Mitchell was the leader in two of those categories for Oregon last season, hauling in 42 receptions for 517 yards, while tight end Jacob Breeland led the team with five touchdowns. Hines would be number one in all three.

There is little doubt that Hines will make a difference on the field, but enough about that. Let’s get to know a little bit more about the newest Duck:

- Hines had narrowed his transfer options to Oregon, USC, and Texas before ultimately deciding on UO.

- Says players and the coaches really helped set Oregon apart.

- Thanks to all the jerseys, he says he actually watched a lot of Oregon football as a kid.

- How does he describe his new quarterback, Justin Herbert? Simply, “he’s the real deal.”

- Hine says he doesn’t know how to fish, but wants to learn how. This is the Pacific Northwest! It might be kind of hard to find someone to teach him, *wink*

- The emoji that best describes him? He says it’s the cool guy with the glasses.

Want to learn even more about the newest Duck? Be sure to tune into The Bridge tonight at 6PM for the full interview with Serena Winters and Bri Amaranthus.

And since Bri does call him a “hastag king,” it would serve you well to follow Hines on Twitter (@TabariHines) and Instagram ( @TabariHines1).