Taggart says that Herbert is “getting really close” to being back
It has been over six weeks since quarterback Justin Herbert fractured his collarbone against California, and one question remains unanswered: Will Herbert be playing on Saturday against Arizona?
According to head coach Willie Taggart on Monday, he’s “getting really close,” but Taggart jokingly said he won’t make an official decision until 3:59 p.m. on Saturday, one minute before kickoff against Arizona.
“Justin’s doing well,” Taggart said. “His bone is healing really well. Had a good week of practice last week. Had a good practice yesterday. … Probably get another X-ray, see where he is and hopefully he’s ready to roll.”
Taggart said that if it were up to Herbert, he “would have been playing three weeks ago,” healed collarbone or not.
Since Herbert went down, true freshman Braxton Burmeister has taken over the reins. During his time as starting QB, Burmeister has undoubtedly struggled throwing the ball. However, Herbert’s absence has allowed Burmeister to get the first team snaps throughout practice, and he has improved steadily, even winning a game as a starter against Utah.
“With Justin, he can run the entire offense,” Taggart said. “With Braxton, he’s getting there. He didn’t have the luxury of going through spring ball, getting all the reps and going through training camp and getting all the reps.”
There’s no question that having Herbert start on Saturday would change the Ducks’ offense completely, but Oregon has another quarterback to watch out for: Arizona’s Khalil Tate.
The dual-threat quarterback may be more of a dynamic runner, but he can still throw the ball.
“He’s pretty good at what they ask him to do,” Taggart said. “They only ask him to throw it 20, 30 times a game. The way they run the football, they don’t have to — again, it’s option football. But when they do ask him to throw, he’s pretty effective with that as well.”
What does Taggart say they need to do to contain Tate?
“No one’s stopped him yet this year,” Taggart said. “He’s a heck of a talent.”
In addition to praying, Taggart emphasized discipline, wrapping up on tackles, running to the ball and, “the most important thing,” getting lined up.
“A lot of the big plays they make, the defense isn’t aligned right,” Taggart said. “Part of it is because of tempo — they aren’t getting set up. I don’t think you can complicate things trying to defend him.”
With two game left in the regular season and the Ducks’ needing to win one of those two games to be bowl eligible, they have a lot to play for. At this point last season, the Ducks were 3-7, without the chance of going to a bowl game.
“We have a lot to play for,” Taggart said. “That’s credit to our players for putting our football team in a situation where this time of year you’re still playing for something. … Even though we’ve had some bumps along the way, we’ve still got a chance to do some things.”
Follow Kylee O’Connor on Twitter @kyleethemightee
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