Los Angeles- It was 100 degrees in Hollywood and the Pac-12 Conference is heating up ahead of the 2019 football season.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye and coach Mario Cristobal oozed confidence and comfort with the media at the annual Pac-12 Media Day. Pac-12 North coaches raved about Herbert’s talent while reeling for an answer on how to defend the possible 2020 NFL Draft top quarterback selection.
“Seems like Herbert has been there forever,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach of the four-year starter. “Somehow they granted him 10 years of eligibility.”
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, running back Jermar Jefferson and wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins wore the word “urgency” printed on their wristbands, while preaching improvement and a mentality shift.
Border War heat
I’d argue the rivalry between Oregon and Washington has never been hotter and Herbert agrees with me. The Ducks narrowly edged the Huskies to win the North Division among 35 voting media members (who picked the Utes to win the South and the conference). I asked Herbert and Dye, “Does it feel good to top their rival in the media poll?” Refreshingly, the Eugene-native Herbert grabbed the mic, smiled and said yes, it confirmed and recognized much of the hard work that UO has been putting in.
After being upset in overtime in Eugene, Washington coach Chris Peterson downplayed this season’s October 19th game at Husky Stadium, urging the “one game at a time” mindset.
You don’t want to see Mario Cristobal when he’s angry
Hollywood equals Blockbuster movies, so which Superhero movie would Ducks star in? Herbert would be Iron Man, Dye loves Captain America and both Ducks said Cristobal would be Hulk, because they are afraid of him when he’s angry.
Justin Herbert, most interesting person at media day
Herbert, who is on most short lists for this season’s Heisman Trophy, was named first-team quarterback in landslide fashion. The senior received a first-team nod on 31 of 33 media members ballots. Herbert’s decision to return for his senior season surprised everyone, except those who know him, Cristobal mentioned that it was a less difficult decision than it may have seemed.
Teammate Dye called Herbert a “clown” and admitted that Herbert is much funnier than his serious disposition suggests. Herbert, Dye and the entire senior class went on a bonding retreat to Sunriver, Oregon this summer to ride ATVs.
Pac-12 opponents praised his off-field poise, but also explained that Herbert is the athlete that everyone hates to love, because of the problems his talent creates for defenses.
Terror Troy Dye
Dye is “stronger and smarter than he looks,” says Herbert. After forgoing the 2019 NFL Draft, Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and I predict the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971.
The linebacker, who was named to first-team defense, is undoubtedly he leader of Oregon’s 2019 defense. At media day, he divulged that he revels in competing with Herbert. His favorite thing to do is try to intercept Herbert’s passes.
Wake surfing, so hot right now
It’s always fun to see how coaches spend their offseason when they aren’t recruiting or preparing. Peterson and Smith like to go boating and both coaches enjoy to wake surfing, which is basically wake board without being strapped into a board. This summer was the first time Smith has ever successfully surfed and Cal coach Justin Wilcox said he needed photo proof. Wilcox is more of a paddleboard guy.
OSU defense making strides
Oregon State’s defense has to be better than last season, right? The Beavers could not stop anyone. Outside of a 48-25 home win over Southern Utah, Oregon State allowed at least 34 points in every other game last season.
In Smith’s second year as head coach, he specified the outside linebackers as the defensive position group that has seen the most growth. He also mentioned the new additions are extremely important for their depth and competition in the position rooms.
Versatile Jermar Johnson
Following a sensational freshman season, Johnson has benefitted from an offseason of weight-lifting and conditioning at the college level. He gained muscle, set new max’s and lowered his body fat. His versatility will be a major strength for OSU’s offense this season, as the sophomore has been working on catching passes out of the backfield.