FootballSports

Finished with the offseason, Ducks are ready to knock off rust on first day of spring practice



Spring football is underway, and as always it brings a mix of new and familiar faces.

There are some new coaches and freshman on campus, but for star quarterback Justin Herbert, it’s business as usual.

“I’m just glad to be back, to be back out with the guys,” he said. “It’s been a long offseason so far and we’re just excited to be back and get back to work.”

There are seven months before Oregon football plays an official game at Autzen Stadium, but spring practice is a crucial time to develop so the team can be ready come fall. New players need to adjust to new roles and everyone needs to get on the same page, especially for offense, which requires precisions and chemistry.

“Just keep building timing with the receivers,” Herbert said. “Getting the running backs up to speed because I know we lost some of the big guys. I’m really excited about the guys we have and the future.”

Junior Dillon Mitchell is one of the veteran receivers on the team now. He’s listed on the depth chart as a slot receiver, a position he hasn’t played since high school. Depth charts are usually fluid in spring, but if he does play that position come fall, he knows he has Charles Nelson’s shoes to fill.

“I talked to Charles during the year when I kind of thought last year I was going to be playing this,” Mitchell said. “Just picking up tips and different things I can get better at.”

There is no question as to who will be passing to Mitchell this season. Herbert is clearly the guy, yet he still wants to improve.

“Definitely one of the things I have to work on is consistency,” Herbert said. “Just playing at the level that the team needs.”

Herbert will be handing the ball to a new stable of running backs this season. Senior Tony Brooks-James is the only one to return from the powerful trio of him, Kani Benoit and Royce Freeman.

“Senior season, just got to come out and perform my best and go out on top,” Brooks-James said.

Brooks-James knows the pressure is on him to stay at the top of the depth chart. Redshirt freshman CJ Verdell is someone who could see a lot of action this season.

“I know the guys we have back there are going to do a great job,” Herbert said. “CJ and Darrian (Felix) and Tony, those guys are special.”

Sophomore quarterback Braxton Burmeister spoke to the media for the first time in his Oregon career. Last season, when Herbert was injured, Burmeister struggled in the five games he played in. He was the talking point for fans and media, and there was a lot of criticism of the young quarterback.

“It was tough,” he said. “I felt I could handle it, but it was definitely a tough situation.”

“Definitely a lot tougher physically and mentally,” Burmeister added later.

He relied on his parents throughout the process, along with mentor Akili Smith. Burmeister expected to redshirt that season, so to start for almost half of it was a difficult task.

“I hadn’t really gotten a ton of reps in practice until that Washington State game because both the other quarterbacks went down,” Burmeister said. “And so when that happened, that was really my first week of getting a ton of reps, so I was pretty far behind.”

Oregon will take Thursday off then practice Friday and Saturday. The Emerald will have updates from every spring practice and the spring game on April 21.

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917


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Jack Butler

Jack Butler

I am the sports editor for the Daily Emerald. I cover football and basketball. Email me at [email protected]