Quarterback Preview: Herbert will be the starter, but depth is an issue
For the first time since Marcus Mariota wore green and yellow, Oregon football knows who its quarterback will be going into the fall.
The new coaching staff hasn’t officially declared sophomore Justin Herbert the starter, but there is little reason to believe they will go with somebody else; partially because Herbert looked good in half of last season and spring practice, but also because there is a lack of other options.
The Ducks had five quarterbacks on the roster entering spring practice. Herbert was the only player on roster with significant experience, but there was some speculation that Terry Wilson Jr. or Travis Jonsen would challenge for the starting role. Wilson transferred before the spring game, and Jonsen followed months after.
Three quarterbacks remain in Herbert, freshman Braxton Burmeister and senior Taylor Alie.
Herbert is a solid starter, but if he gets injured, nobody behind him should be expected to fill his void. Burmeister looked far from starting quality in the spring game with his 3-of-7, one interception and four ‘sack’ performance. Alie didn’t take any snaps during the spring game because he transitioned to wide receiver, so he may convert back to quarterback.
Taggart’s system favors a dual-threat quarterback, but the coaching staff may shy away from running Herbert this season because of the depth issues. If Herbert goes down, Oregon’s offense goes down with him.
Herbert was impressive in the spring game going 16-of-26 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. He seemed comfortable in head coach Willie Taggart’s new system, one that is similar to the old one.
“Last year I had to come in and learn a new offense in a couple weeks,” Herbert said. “So I think I’ve gotten used to it now. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought.”
So how does Herbert compare to other Pac-12 starters?
He’s not in the top tier group of USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Washington’s Jake Browning and Washington State’s Luke Falk, but he’s close.
Herbert was good last season. He posted a 63.5 percent completion percentage with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. At times he showed his inexperience. He struggled against top defenses like Washington, USC and Stanford, but he had one fantastic performance in the upset over then-ranked No.11 Utah.
Half a season of experience, an entire spring of practice and a full training camp knowing he’ll be the guy most likely means improvement. In that case, he sits among the middle of Pac-12 quarterbacks.
For a sophomore, that’s a good place to be.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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