Taj Griffin

Oregon RB Taj Griffin tweets that he is looking to leave

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USA Today

Oregon RB Taj Griffin tweets that he is looking to leave

Senior running back Taj Griffin, buried on the Ducks' depth chart, tweeted tonight following No. 20 Oregon's 38-31 overtime loss to No. 7 Stanford, that he is looking to leave the program. 

https://twitter.com/taj_griffin/status/1043742160535736320

Griffin has six carries for 31 yards and two receptions for 89 yards for the 3-1 Ducks. He entered the season wtih 848 career rushing yards. 

 

 

 

Oregon Mailbag: Herbert's insane stats and what's going on with Taj Griffin?

Oregon Mailbag: Herbert's insane stats and what's going on with Taj Griffin?

Each week I will answer five of your best questions from Twitter or Instagram.

Who is Oregon's hype man this season? Will the Ducks put up 50 points on Saturday? What's going on with Taj Griffin? Which Duck is the best interview? Is there a weak link on the offensive line? 

Question from NBC Sports Northwest on Twitter: Does the Oregon football energy feel different this season? What differences have you noticed at practices and games? 

Answer: I have noticed a more controlled, disciplined excitement under Mario Cristobal. Cristobal puts major emphasis on details and schedule, which is a major change from last season under Willie Taggart.

The game day energy is different this season. Oregon’s strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld is the Ducks’ hype man. He stands at the end of the tunnel and pumps up every player that walks on the field with his electric enthusiasm.
This team doesn’t “win the day” and it doesn’t swag surf. I don’t think this team has found its identity yet, but it will (which is fine, we are only two games into the season).

Question from Corey on Twitter: What is your over/under on the Ducks putting up 50+ points on the board against San Jose State?

Answer: San Jose State is near the bottom of the FBS level statistically in a number of defensive categories, so it’s very likely that Oregon scores over 50 points. I expect Justin Herbert to throw up insane passing numbers.

San Jose State ranks second to last nationally defending the pass. In SJSU’s first two games, UC Davis quarterback Jake Meier and Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew each finished with over 400 passing yards.

Question from Jere on Twitter: Which player on the current roster is the most fun to interview?

Answer: There are a lot of Ducks with good personalities on this team. Senior running back Tony Brooks-James is a great interview because I’ve interviewed him for five years and we’ve built a fun rapport. He can be silly and serious when he needs to be.

Linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. has a lot to say and great stories to tell. On Oregon’s media day he told me about eating Duck for the first time while he studied art abroad in Paris this summer.

Question from Chip on Twitter: I am curious why Taj Griffin has not been more involved in the offense?

Answer: Taj Griffin has a very specific set of skills that Cristobal has planned on utilizing in UO’s offense. The speedy senior shines brightest in space, like when he took a screen pass from Herbert 83 yards to the end zone in Oregon’s opener. Expect him to be involved in the offense by contributing at running back and receiver, as he has worked on his blocking skills to stay in the backfield on more downs.

“We all know what Taj can do when he has some space," Cristobal said. 

Question from Jon on Twitter: Which player on the offensive line do you figure will be the most pivotal over the course of the season? 

Answer: Penei Sewell, the first true freshman offensive lineman to start the season opener since 1997 (last true freshman to start a game on the offensive line was right tackle Tyrell Crosby in 2014).

Sewell is protecting Herbert’s blind side at left tackle and, so far, has exceeded expectations and gained the trust and praise of his teammates. Will his inexperience play a factor as the Ducks play better opponents? We will see, but so far so good.

More Ducks:

The Ducks aren't looking past San Jose State to Stanford, but I am

Oregon Quarterback Justin Herbert is seeing Redd

Oregon football most valuable program in Pac-12 conference

Official: 4-star WR Jalen Hall off Oregon football team

Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert doesn't play favorites

The best and worst from Oregon's domination over Portland State

Oregon football rises to No. 20 the AP Poll

"Grandpa" Tony Brooks-James has goals to dominate in his final UO season

"Grandpa" Tony Brooks-James has goals to dominate in his final UO season

Oregon has an elite history of impressive running backs. In Oregon’s season opener, it wasn’t one Duck performance that dazzled, instead it was the six-headed running back monster that totaled 212 rushing yards with an average of five yards per rush.

No. 23 Oregon (1-0) flexed its depth by spreading the ball out to all six of its scholarship running backs in its 58-24 victory over Bowling Green. Freshman CJ Verdell led the way with 51 yards and Cyrus Habibi-Likio was the only running back to score.

Going forward, will Oregon's stat line show six running back rushers? Probably not. But it sure did give reason for optimism for Oregon's power-tempo offense. It raised some examination of the roles for seniors Tony Brooks-James and Taj Griffin.

Starting running back Brooks-James had the best average at 5.4 yards per carry, but only carried the ball five times, making him fifth on the team in rushing attempts, less than quarterback Justin Herbert. Brooks-James also caught one pass for 53 yards and averaged 20 yards on his three kickoff returns. 

Brooks-James didn't record a carry after halftime but don’t fret, the Ducks still believe he is their every down back.

"We held Tony out again figuring the game was in good hands," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. "But no, he'll be a guy who totes the ball more than just that."

Brooks-James’ teammates call him “grandpa." The leader of the running back room beefed up 17 pounds in the offseason and has goals for last season as an Oregon Duck.

“I don’t have a set yardage (goal) because I don’t want to put a limit on myself,” Tony said. “(My goal is) to dominate in all phases of the game”

Brooks-James enters his senior year coming off back-to-back 1,000 all-purpose yards seasons and on Doak Walker award watch list.

Listed as a running back after spending last season as slot receiver, it’s also Taj Griffin’s last UO season to shine. In his last two seasons, he’s had just 55 carries but has shown peeks into his lethal speed and playmaking ability.

UO’s plan to utilize Griffin in open space worked against Bowling Green. Griffin only rushed once for four yards but took a screen pass from Herbert 83 yards for a touchdown.

“I only need a small crease so whatever way I can get set up for success to get to the secondary,” Griffin said on how he can be an offensive weapon.

So while there might be a plethora of talent at running back, expect the old man of the group to be the lead workhorse, Grandpa Tony Brooks-James. 

Oregon's rushing attack led by seven-headed monster

Oregon's rushing attack led by seven-headed monster

Who will be the next president of Running Backs University, also known as, Oregon Football? 

Turns out, No.24 Oregon (1-0) has a seven-headed monster leading its rushing attack. In the Ducks' 58-24 win over Bowling Green tonight, six running backs played and totaled 212 rushing yards with an average of five yards per rush.

Who makes seven? Quarterback Justin Herbert who finished with 41 rushing yards on six attempts.

Herbert was 10-of-21 for 281 yards passing with five touchdowns (an Oregon season opener record) and two interceptions.

"(Our running backs) are a young group that worked hard this offseason," Herbert said.  "I’ve got confidence in them.” 

Coach Mario Cristobal made a statement today in his first season opener as UO's head coach. The dominant victory removed the unease left by the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State in Crisotbal’s debut and set up the Ducks to dominate their nonconference opponents.

"We wanted to spread the ball out a little bit and give each guy a turn,” Crisotbal said. "For the most part (the running backs) had some pretty good success. Whatever form that works to keep moving the chains and scoring points, is what we are going to do."

Ready for the running back monster break down?

Redshirt freshman CJ Verdell led the Ducks with 51 yards on 13 carries and showed glimpses of his breakaway speed. 

Sophomore Darrian Felix barreled for 38 yards on eight attempts. He did not look afraid of contact, and his explosive lateral quickness makes him an intriguing option.

Freshman Travis Dye, who enrolled early at Oregon for spring football, rushed for 37 yards on seven attempts. He is the younger brother of UO junior linebacker, Troy Dye.

After the game, Troy Dye praised his younger brother’s first college football performance but also poked fun at his sibling. "At the end of the day he's still a bum," Dye said. 

Redshirt Senior Tony Brooks-James, who started the game, finished with 27 on five attempts. He utilized his explosiveness during one 15-yard run and on a 53-yard reception.  

Senior running back Taj Griffin only rushed once for four yards but took a screen pass from Herbert 83 yards for a touchdown. 

“We all know what Taj can do when he has some space," Cristobal said. 

Cyrus Habibi-Likio, a redshirt freshman, scored his first college touchdown and finished the game with five rushing yards on one attempt. 

“(Habibi-Likio) is a big power guy that can make things happen,” Cristobal said.

[WATCH: Cyrus Habibi-Likio, the next LeGarrette Blount?]

Going forward, will Oregon's stat line show seven rushers? Maybe not. But it sure did give reason for optimism for Oregon's power-tempo offense. 

Said Cristobal: “Will it be like that every single game? It’s hard to do that every single game.”

Oregon's RB situation has reached boy band status

Oregon's RB situation has reached boy band status

Oregon appears to be going with the boy band approach to the running back position. Oregon's depth chart lists redshirt senior Tony Brooks-James as the starter followed by the word, "situational" for the backup position. 

That's because the Ducks, who open the season Saturday at home against Bowling Green, have yet to identify a clear backup. The plan for now is to shuffle up to five other running backs in and out of the game: Redshirt freshman C.J. Verdell, sophomore Darrian Felix, senior Taj Griffin, redshirt freshman Cyris Habibi-Likio and freshman Travis Dye.  

"They all deserve to play," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. 

Adding to the madness is the fact that Brooks-James doesn't appear to have established himself as the clear No. 1 back, but instead he is the best among the group. Consequently, we could see as many as four to six running backs in a given game. 

This isn't good news for Oregon. The most successful boy bands of all time had a clear front man, such as Michael Jackson (Jackson 5) and Justin Timberlake (NSYNC). The same can be said about the most successful Oregon teams. One, maybe two running backs got the job done. Not five or six. You only roll with that many when you don't have a clear leader and maybe a sidekick.  

This is an unusual approach for the Ducks, or any other team for that matter.

For the first time since 2013, Oregon does not have a clear No. 1 running back. Oregon's front man the past four years, Royce Freeman, is now with Denver in the NFL, leaving the Ducks to use a running back by committee until someone emerges. Brooks-James is the starter, but Cristobal didn't make it sound like he is the clear top dog. 

"We've all seen through the years that he has flashed some greatness...," Cristobal said. "When we come off the sideline he deserves to be the first running back out there." 

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for your lead running back. It smacks of being loaded with reservations that Brooks-James is the go-to, 20-carry-per-game guy.

Oregon faced similar questions in 2013. That season, sophomore Byron Marshall rose to the occasion to rush for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns. The following season, UO moved Marshall to wide receiver because the Ducks had Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Taj Griffin at running back.

Oregon has been set at the position ever since. Prior to 2013, the Ducks featured Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James, LeGarrette Blount, Jeremiah Johnson and Jonathan Stewart, dating back to 2006. 

Oregon would be quite pleased if Brooks-James performed this year as Marshall did in 2013. But it appears that that doesn't prove to be the case, Oregon is prepared to give a ton of players a chance to contribute. 

Having a glut of good running backs is not a bad thing when all is going well. It truly doesn't matter who is carrying the ball when the holes are huge and the offense is rolling. We saw that in 2016 when Royce Freeman went down at Nebraska but the trio of Kani Benoit, Brooks-James and Taj Griffin ran wild for a combined 205 yards.

But when Oregon needed a steady running back to grind out games against tougher opponents in Freeman's absence (or when he returned but was hindered by a bruised sternum), that guy was not to be found and it hurt Oregon.

The easiest part of being a running back is jolting through a huge hole. The toughest part is finding a couple of yards when they don't appear to be available. That's what made Johnson, Stewart, James, Barner and Freeman so great.  

Brooks-James failed to rise to the occasion in 2016 but did show flashes of being a great back. Now, two years older, he could be ready to answer the call. 

"I've never had (a back) that fast before, in my career," new UO running backs coach Jim Mastro said. "That's a strength. Obviously, when you can take the ball and any minute go 100 yards, 90 yards, that's unique. He's being a great leader. He's took on the role of trying to be the guy. He's done some really good thing."

Again, not exactly a clear declaration that Brooks-James is the man. 

Cristobal said he hopes that each running back's unique skills can help the team. Verdell is a good downhill runner. Dye can juke anyone with his jump cuts. Felix is an elite athlete. Habibi-Likio offers size. Griffin is a prove home run hitter. 

Splice them all together in a lab (the one we all know exists in the bowels of the Hattfield-Dowlin Complex) and Oregon would have the perfect running back. Right now, Oregon simply has a glut of talented backs backing up a senior yet to show that he can carry a team's rushing attack. 

Cristobal said that UO's up-tempo offense would provide plenty of opportunities (80-90 plays per game) for all of the backs to display their talents. The first three opponents, which includes Portland State and San Jose State, should provide easy victories and plenty of opportunities for Oregon to give all of its running backs a fair look. 

"They are all going to get their touches," Cristobal said. 

But once Pac-12 play starts, Oregon would be better off if the field behind Brooks-James has shrunk and he has established himself as the MJ or JT of the 2018 Oregon running game. 

Dazzling UO running backs: The locks, contenders and long shots

Dazzling UO running backs: The locks, contenders and long shots

Who will be the next president of Running Backs University?

Oregon football has an elite history of dazzling running backs. Jonathan StewartLegarrette BlountLaMichael JamesKenjon Barner and Royce Freeman; all 1,000-yard rushers. If we look even farther back, Reuben Droughns (1998-99) and Derek Loville (1986-89) also should be added to the list of all-time greats.

The past four seasons, Oregon could count on Freeman, who carried the bulk of the rushing load and holds Oregon’s career rushing yards record (5,621) and career touchdowns record (60).

[READ: FREEMAN SCORES AGAIN FOR DENVER BRONCOS]

Those are some pretty big cleats to fill. Here is a look into the locks, contenders and long shots at one of the most important UO positions.

LOCKS

Tony Brooks-James, senior: Enters his senior season with 2,375 career all-purpose yards with 1,557 rushing yards, 399 kick return yards and 319 receiving yards. Brooks-James landed on the Doak Walker award watch list following his second straight year with 1,000 all-purpose yards despite not being a full-time starter.

He’s a weapon on special teams and was the only Pac-12 player with a kickoff return for a touchdown in 2017.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said Brooks-James has bulked up about 12 pounds to 190 this season. He is listed as the second-fastest player in the country, according to both Bleacher Report and NFL.com. His increased size and fierce speed makes him the front-runner to win the starting nod at running back.

"I think that when you combine all of these factors and TBJ's want-to, and the realization that this is his senior year, he has created a better running back room," Cristobal said. 

Taj Griffin, senior: Listed as a running back after spending last season as slot receiver, it’s Griffin’s last UO season to shine. In his last two seasons, he’s had just 55 carries but has shown peeks into his lethal speed and playmaking ability.

In 2015 as a freshman, Griffin was the team's second option at running back and finished the year with 732 all-purpose yards, 570 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

“Taj is healthy, so he is in a real good place now,” Cristobal said. “He has worked his tail off and he’s going to be a significant part of our offense.”

[WATCH: A game of would you rather with UO QB Justin Herbert]

CJ Verdell, redshirt freshman: Coming off a productive offseason, Verdell showed off his breakaway speed in UO’s spring game. The three-star rushed for a team-high 44 yards on eight carries, scoring both of Oregon's two rushing touchdowns during the game.

UO coaches and teammates rave about Verdell’s power and toughness, and if not for an ankle injury, he may not have been redshirted last season. Verdell has been “dinged up” and missed a week of fall camp, but is expected to be available for Oregon’s opener against Bowling Green, according to Cristobal.

Verdell rushed for 2,399 yards and 36 touchdowns at Mater Dei high school.

CONTENDERS

Cyrus Habibi-Likio, redshirt freshman: The 6-2, freshman is Oregon's tallest and heaviest running back. He’s listed at 207 pounds on the roster but is now weighing in at 215 pounds thanks to Coach Feld’s rigorous strength program. Expect him to be utilized as a heavier, power back and as a weapon on special teams. His goal is to create mismatches in the slot.

“Cyrus has got power, he’s fast and he’s got really good hands,” Cristobal said. “He’s a very instinctive player and he’s played defense so he is all over the field on special teams.”

Habibi-Likio models him game and looks up to former Oregon running back Legarrette Blount.

Darrian Felix, sophomore: Saw action in nine games last season as a true freshman. He carried the ball 30 times for 182 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and scored once.

The 5-11, 191-pound sophomore is the only running back besides Brooks-James and Griffin with on-field experience. His explosive lateral quickness makes him an intriguing option. Felix has been practicing with a a non-contact red uniform but should be cleared in time for the opener.

LONGSHOTS

Travis Dye, freshman: Enrolled early at Oregon for spring football after rushing for 2,383 yards and 34 touchdowns as a high school senior at Norco High school in California. In the UO spring game, he rushed for 12 yards on five carries.

Dye has four older brothers that have played (or are playing) college football, including star Duck linebacker, Troy.

Dye has recently returned from injury and is full-go, he has seen some practice reps with the No.1 offense.

[READ: How the new redshirt rule helps Oregon]

Noah Dahl, sophomore: A walk-on from Silverton high school in Oregon. He led Silverton to the 5A state title game as a junior while being named to the All-State first team as a defensive back and kicker. As a senior running back he was named to the Class 5A All-State second team and the Mid-Willamette Conference first team.

Which Duck linebackers will wreak havoc? The locks, contenders and longshots

Who will Herbert sling the ball to? The Locks, Contenders and Longshots at receiver

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: RB Tony Brooks-James emerges

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: RB Tony Brooks-James emerges

Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018. 

Other position entries: QuarterbackRunning backsReceivers/Tight endsOffensive lineDefensive backs; LinebackersDefensive line.   

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Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: RB Tony Brooks-James emerges. 

Key departures: Senior Royce Freeman moved on to the NFL after breaking nearly every school record imaginable.  Versatile senior backup Kani Benoit is also gone.  

Projected 2017 starter: Tony Brooks-James, RSr., (5-9, 175),

Key backups: Darrian Felix, Soph., (5-11, 178); C.J. Verdell, RFr., (5-8, 192); Taj Griffin, Sr., (5-11, 178); Cyrus Habibi-Likio, RFr., (6-0, 208). 

What we know: Freeman is gone. Let's all take a moment to reflect on his greatness.

Now, let's take a moment to reflect on what his absence could mean for Oregon.

Yikes!

Then toss in the loss of Benoit. 

Double yikes!

Oregon hasn't lost this much running back talent in one offseason since maybe ever. But, in typical Oregon tradition, there is a potentially great running back waiting in the wings. 

Brooks-James has rushed for 1,557 yards in his career on 226 carries (5.9 per carry) and has scored 14 rushing touchdowns. If he managed to put up those same numbers in one season, the Ducks will be in business. 

Essentially, Oregon needs Brooks-James to become the next Kenjon Barner, who after backing up LaMichael James for three seasons, rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2012. 

What we don't know: Can Brooks-James be that guy? And, will he truly need to?

At a listed 178 pounds, it might be a lot to ask of James to carry the ball 20 times per game and survive the season. If he isn't up to the task, the Ducks do have options, albeit of the unproven variety. 

Felix saw minimal time as a freshman and gained 182 yards. The real wild card is Verdell, who by all accounts is the next great UO running back in waiting. He redshirted in 2017 due to injuries and ample depth already in place. 

We can't ignore Griffin, who was moved to wide receiver last season but still received some carries. He has 848 career rushing yards in his career on 6.1 yards per carry. 

Habibi-Likio has a lot of ground to make up on the depth chart in order to crash the rotation next season. But he does offer more bulk at 208 pounds than every other running back, except maybe Verdell, who packs 192 pounds on his 5-8 frame.  

What must happen for Oregon to contend: Clearly, Oregon must be able to run the ball well in order to succeed. Ideally, the Ducks will have a clear No. 1 back, and that man should be Brooks-James. But he doesn't have to match the level of play displayed in the past by the likes of Jonathan Stewart, James, Barner or Freeman. Brooks-James could simply be what Byron Marshall was in 2013 when he rushed for 1,068 yards and 14 touchdowns while Thomas Tyner chipped in 711 rushing yards and De'Anthony Thomas went for 594. 

If Oregon gets that type of production out of its top three running backs in 2018, the Ducks will be just fine. 

Next up: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 3)...: Someone compliments WR Dillon Mitchell. 

Oregon running back Royce Freeman wise to sit out Las Vegas Bowl

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USA Today

Oregon running back Royce Freeman wise to sit out Las Vegas Bowl

LAS VEGAS - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman made what had to be a tough decision for him to sit out Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State. 

He made the wise decision, even though it might appear to be selfish on the surface. 

"This is hard for him, now," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said today prior to practice at Bishop Gorman High School. "This is not an easy thing for a guy like that."

Freeman, who practiced with the team on Wednesday, was not made available for comment today.

Freeman leaves Oregon as its all-time leading rusher (5,621 yards) and the Pac-12 Conference's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (60). He has given 947 carries to the program, a total that's also a record. Going out a winner in a bowl game was probably enticing for Freeman but the risk of injury isn't worth the reward. Few will remember or care who won the Vegas Bowl within days after it ends. An injury could hinder Freeman, projected to go in the third or fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, for the rest of his career. 

Senior left tackle Tyrell Crosby would be wise to follow suit. Cristobal said Crosby would announce his intentions on Friday. Projected by many to be a first-round pick, Crosby could literally be risking $10 million or more by playing in the Vegas Bowl. A serious injury could knock him out of the first round and into the later rounds, as it did former Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who tore an ACL during practice prior to the 2014 Rose Bowl. He ended up getting drafted in the seventh round and never fully regained health in his knee. He is now out of the NFL. 

NFL-bound players electing to not play in their team's bowl game is a growing trend. Former Last season, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette sat out their respective team's bowl games. 

Cristobal is not in favor of this development. 

"I like to see key players play," Cristobal said. 

That doesn't mean he isn't with Freeman on his decision. 

"Am I disappointed in him? No, I'm not," Cristobal asked. "Do I want to see him play? Absolutely. But I stand by him just like I gave him my word and I don't break my word for nobody."

Cristobal said the entire team backs Freeman, as they should 

"They understand that this family thing is not just talk," Cristobal said. "This family thing is real. This family will stick together, support each other and we'll press forward."

Oregon's running game should be just fine on Saturday. When Freeman went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter against California on Sept. 30 the Ducks still won 45-24 and rushed for 328 yards and six touchdowns.

In 2016, after Freeman went down with a foot injury at Nebraska, the Ducks managed to rush for 336 yards and five touchdowns. Crosby was lost for the season in that game. 

Interestingly, following practice offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo met with the media and when asked about Freeman's decision said that he was unaware of the situation. 

"It's unfortunate," he said. "Obviously, Royce is such a big part of who we area. But guys are going to made decisions based on the betterment for their life. Royce has done an awesome job for us. We're going to miss him...but just like when he went down, we have to find a way to pull together."

The Ducks will lean on senior Kani Benoit, redshirt junior Tony Brooks-James, who will likely be next year's top back, junior Taj Griffin and freshman Darrian Felix. 

There is plenty of talent there to win with making Freeman's decision ever more on the mark as being the right move for his future. 

Overwhelmed Burmeister needs more help from his friends

Overwhelmed Burmeister needs more help from his friends

EUGENE – The good news is that Braxton Burmeister can only get better. The bad news is that it won’t matter unless he receives a little help from his friends.

The freshman quarterback made his starting debut Saturday night for the Oregon Ducks against No. 11 Washington State and the results were not good. He didn’t run well. He didn’t pass well. He didn’t call the cadence particularly well, at times.

But what transpired on offense for the Ducks (4-2, 1-2 PAC-12) during a 33-10 loss had as much to do with what went on around Burmeister as it did what went on with Burmeister,

Asking him to adequately fill in for the injured Justin Herbert (collarbone) was a tall order to begin with. Doing so while the offensive line had a subpar night and the starting receivers included a former safety and former running back proved to be completely unfair.

“I think this game he can learn a lot from,” UO coach Willie Taggart said. “He got that first game out of the way. He will be better as we move forward. But he needs a lot more help around him.”

The game was clearly too fast for Burmeister who struggled to read coverages and deliver accurate throws on time, if at all. Burmeister flashed some speed when he took off running but didn’t make defenders miss and took a lot of punishment. That could have proven to be problematic had he been injured because senior Taylor Alie was unavailable because of the concussion he suffered during last week’s win over California.

Burmeister ended up completing 15 of 27 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions and was sacked four times. He rushed for 35 yards on 11 carries but after sacks finished with negative four yards rushing.

His best two passes came on a 30-yard touchdown toss to a wide-open sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland that gave UO a 10-7 lead in the first quarter, and a 39-yard pass to sophomore Brenden Schooler who got open on a post route in the fourth quarter.

Other than that, it was dink and dunk for short gains. In fact, 11 of his completions went for eight yards, or less. Burmeister completed at least seven quick screens that went nowhere because WSU’s defense were dialed in on them as if they knew Oregon didn’t have many other options.

“We just didn’t really have enough time back there to make some plays,” Breeland said. “He’s got a good arm. He can throw the ball well.”

True freshmen players are not allowed to speak to the media.

When the Ducks did try to go downfield, Burmeister either found no open receivers and was sacked or flushed from the pocket, or he made an errant through. Several times he threw deep down the sideline on passes that had zero chance for completion because they were too far thrown and/or landed out of bonds.

Hindering the entire process for Burmeister was the wide receiver situation. Senior Charles Nelson ended up missing his third game with an ankle sprain after he warmed up during pregame in hopes of playing. Junior Taj Griffin, who also plays running back, started in his place. Sophomore Dillon Mitchell was unavailable because of the concussion he sustained against Cal leading to Schooler, a safety up until fall camp, starting in his place.

The results were inconsistent route running all game long that added to Burmeister’s confusion and indecision.

“Those are the lumps that you take with having young guys in there,” Taggart said. “A lot of those guys, they made some mistakes, too. We have to do a good job as coaches to make sure those guys are sharp on their assignments…especially when you have a young quarterback.”

But one had to know that all of the above was going to happen with a freshman quarterback making his first start while being saddled with such an inexperience receiving corps.

The biggest surprise proved to be the Ducks' subpar play of the running game. After Herbert went down and out in the first quarter Cal, the Ducks’ offensive line struggled for a quarter before completing dominating the Golden Bears to the tune of 328 yards rushing (5.9 per carry) on the night.

A repeat performance would be needed against WSU (6-0, 3-0), which entered the game with a rather strong defense but not much better than Cal’s.

But Oregon responded by rushing for 132 yards on 49 carries (2.9 per attempt). Senior Royce Freeman, still bothered by an injured shoulder that knocked him out of the Cal win in the first quarter gained 62 on 12 carries.

“We knew what Washington State was going to throw at us with all the movement,” redshirt sophomore center Jake Hanson said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job picking it up. Plain and simple.”

A better day rushing would have opened up more play-action, boots and roll outs for Burmeister, as well as given him better down-and-distance situations. Oregon converted on just 2 of 17 third down attempts

“I thought their D-line did a good jog against us,” Taggart said. “I didn’t think we played our best game upfront offensively. They did a lot of movement upfront that caused us some problems.”

So, where does Oregon go from here?

On the surface, they appear to be in huge trouble with games coming up at Stanford, at UCLA, then home against Utah before playing at Washington. Becoming bowl eligible might rely on winning home games to end the season against Arizona and Oregon State.

Herbert was said to be out 4-to-6 weeks, however, there appears to be a belief that he could return closer to the four than the six. That would but Herbert back in action for Utah on Oct. 28.

That would be great news for the Ducks, but in the meantime they need Burmeister and company to get better.

Despite what we all saw on Saturday, that could easily happen. Now that Burmeister has seen Pac-12 speed, he can adjust. The coaches must simplify the offense even more to allow for better receiver play and for Burmeister to flourish. It is also very likely that the Ducks get back Nelson and Mitchell this week at Stanford. If so, we should see an immediate uptick in the passing game.

Finally, none of that will translate into wins unless the offensive line and the running game can carry the offense.

“Everybody has got to get better,” Taggart said. “We have to go to work and learn from this tape. But more importantly we’ve got to know what we’re doing.”

Oregon's Taj Griffin is back, hungry and dangerous

Oregon's Taj Griffin is back, hungry and dangerous

When Oregon junior Taj Griffin took a pass over the middle 20 yards to the end zone in the second quarter of the team's 49-13 win at Wyoming on Saturday, running back Royce Freeman was one of the first teammates to greet him.

"I was trying to rush to the end zone once he scored as fast as I could to give my man some love," the senior captain said.

It was a big moment for Griffin, who hadn't played in a game since an ACL tear during a non-contact drill late last season cost him the final three games of the year.

"It was definitely great to get back out there," Griffin said.

Griffin said he probably could have played in No. 24 Oregon's first two games. But, given that he had missed spring drills and remained limited during fall camp, he thought it best to wait until he was completely 100 percent healthy. That time has come and the lightening-fast and elusive playmaker is ready to contribute. 

"He is a lethal weapon, especially if we use him correctly," Freeman said. "He can do a lot of great things for us."

How exactly will be used? As a running back or as a receiver?

"I like both," he said. "Wherever I can get the ball in space and help my team out."

The 5-foot-11, 178-pound Griffin, recruited as a running back, is listed as a wide receiver on the team's depth chart but received six carries for 35 yards at Wyoming in addition to his lone reception. 

Griffin isn't quite as electric as for UO star De'Anthony Thomas was, and he isn't as polished as senior receiver Charles Nelson. Still, Griffin is a lethal combination of both that could prove to be a wild card for the Ducks this season and a force in the future. 

Oregon is very deep at running back with Freeman, senior Kani Benoit and redshirt junior Tony Brook-James. The receiver position, however, is a lot thinner behind Nelson. Griffin is now listed as the backup slot behind Nelson. In the long run, that ultimately could be Griffin's best position given his lack of ideal size at running back. 

"I'm not the biggest guy, frame wise," he said. 

Thomas, who played at Oregon at 5-9, 175-pounds, moved to receiver his freshman year and ultimately got drafted into the NFL as a receiver by Kansas City.  Griffin has a similar skillset and is hoping to take over the starting slot position next year after Nelson has moved on to the NFL. 

"I'm definitely work towards that," Griffin said. 

For his career, Griffin has 788 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 120 carries and 271 yards receiving 18 receptions for three scores. 

Nelson is currently nursing a sprained ankle but is likely to play Saturday at Arizona State. If not, or even if he's simply limited, we could see a lot more of Griffin in Tempe, Ariz.  

UO wide receivers coach Michael Johnson said Griffin is still learning the position but certainly presents some firepower and will be used in certain situations.  

"When he gets the ball in his hands in space, he is a dynamic player," Johnson said.