Oregon senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal as a graduate transfer and the dominos have begun to fall. According Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal, the Ducks must press on.
"As it relates to Brenden Schooler, he has elected to grad transfer and we support him in his choice, and we move on," Cristobal said.
When asked if Schooler's transfer caught him by surprise, Cristobal replied, "We just move on."
Schooler’s departure doesn’t slow down Oregon (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12), who has command of the Pac-12 North Division. While the Ducks will greatly miss the highly regarded leadership and intangibles Schooler provided, his production has already been replaced while he was out for Oregon’s first four games with injury (broken foot).
In his three games played this season, Schooler has only has two catches for 44 yards. During his absence, Johnny Johnson III, Jaylon Redd and Bryan Addison took over as reliable targets for quarterback Justin Herbert. Freshman Mycah Pittman, who returned from injury at the same time, has found a more regular rotation with the receivers than Schooler did. Pittman has 148 receiving yards on nines receptions and one touchdown.
Schooler’s decision to leave is likely playing time oriented. Simply put, the Ducks were forced find their grove while Schooler was out. Now the question must be raised, does his departure propel Juwan Johnson’s highly-anticipated Duck career forward?Johnson as “the scariest big play threat for this season.” Even Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said his first thought was how large Johnson is in pads.
At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, Johnson’s large, powerful, physical frame is unlike the other receivers currently on Oregon’s roster. Plus, he brings experience to the position: entering 2019 he had played in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran wide receiver, Schooler.
"I’m here to be a leader," Johnson said when he arrived in Eugene in April. "That’s my job here, come in and bring a leader and bring that energy to the team. I want to bring the guys up so we can win a Pac-12 championship, national championship and those sort of things."
However, a right calf injury sidelined Johnson for four games and Herbert has rarely targeting him since returning to the field. In three games, Johnson has two catches for 36 yards. Both catches were in Oregon’s win vs. Colorado.
It’s possible Johnson has been playing through injury or shaking off rust and that is the reason his reps have been limited. According to Cristobal on Wednesday, Johnson, “really looks like he’s healthy now.”
“We’ve got him targeted here this week again and if the ball goes in his direction we expect him to make some plays," Arroyo said on Tuesday. “Putting him in the position to be successful I think comes in two parts: working through the week and being successful and proving we can be part of it and then coming out on a Saturday and proving it.”
Washington State (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12), which is ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in pass defense in conference games, is a big opportunity for Johnson. Saturday is a chance for the big play threat to turn into a big play reality.