Herbert, Dye highlight changes within Oregon football at Pac-12 media day

HOLLYWOOD — A lot is changing for Oregon football, and it was all the buzz at Pac-12 media day on Thursday.

The team is led by young talent in sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert and sophomore linebacker Troy Dye. Star wide receiver Darren Carrington was dismissed and has since transferred to Pac-12 rival Utah, who plays Oregon on October 23 at Autzen Stadium.

Oregon, which went 4-8 last year and 2-7 in conference, naturally had to make changes, so they made a coaching overhaul and hired Willie Taggart to lead the program.

“He just brings a lot of swagger,” Dye said. “He’s just an uplifting guy, he just loves to have fun, always smiling, always having jokes. There’s never a dull moment around him.”

Dye continued: “I will never forget, we were sitting in a meeting and he started cracking jokes during the meeting and I was like, ‘this is the head coach sitting next to me acting like he’s a player having fun with me.’ At the end of the day you have to know your head coach and as long as you’re having fun with him you know it’s going to be a good year.”

Herbert, who was a relatively reserved true freshman when he became the starter in then-head coach Mark Helfrich’s team, has now gained 15 pounds, according to Taggart.

“It seemed like Justin went to bed one night and said ‘let’s go,’” Taggart said. “He’s just changed. Whether it’s in the weight room, competing with the other guys. Justin’s walking outside with his shirt off now, and if you all know Justin, that wasn’t him before.”

Herbert deflected a question about his weight gain, saying that the whole team has improved rather than getting caught up in his own personal improvements.

“I think just overall the offseason went really well,” Herbert said. “A lot of the guys have gotten a lot stronger. I think just with the overall energy of the staff that was brought in, it’s been a really fun offseason.”

In the spring, former Oregon quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota attended several practices in Eugene and spoke with Herbert.

“He just told us to stay focused if things go bad or not the way we want them to,” Herbert said. “We’ve got to stay focused and take care of the next play.”

After the dismissal of wide receiver Darren Carrington, Oregon’s offense will look at its options with Herbert at the helm.

“I would say the emphasis is on going fast,” Herbert said. “We’ve got so many plays that are trying to get the ball to the fast guys and let them make plays, and so my job is to just distribute the ball and get them to the fast guys and let them take care of it.”

Even on the defense, the mindset shifts to a more positive outlook to try and spark a winning season this upcoming fall.

“You get into games where you’re out there and you’re losing and guys aren’t used to that,” Dye said. “Sometimes you can catch them hanging their heads and you’ve got to tell them to keep your head up and fight because you never know how the game could turn. One big play. One big turnover. One big spark and the momentum could be right back on your side.”

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Shawn Medow

Shawn Medow

Shawn is an associate sports editor and reporter for the Emerald covering football, men's basketball, women's basketball, acrobatics and tumbling, track and field/cross-country and softball. He also hosts several podcasts, including a soccer podcast, on the Emerald Podcast Network. You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShawnMedow.