Wide receiver depth crucial for Oregon football’s offensive success this season

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has earned Heisman Trophy hype ahead of this season, but the junior won’t live up to the reputation alone. He’ll need support from his wide receivers, a group filled with young talent looking to be on the end of Herbert’s throws this season.

“He’s throwing balls the way NFL quarterbacks throw balls,” wide receivers coach Michael Johnson said. “He’s putting them in places that you don’t normally get them. I’d like to see [the receivers] be more consistent in catching the ball, but they’re doing a good job.”

Oregon’s most notable returners at receiver are sophomore Johnny Johnson III and juniors Dillon Mitchell and Brenden Schooler. The trio of receivers are Herbert’s main targets — they combined for 1,090 of Oregon’s 2,469 receiving yards last year — and much of that is thanks to some extra practice.

“They haven’t missed one workout. They’ve been out there every day,” Herbert said at Pac-12 media day in July. “It’s always great to work with them.”

Michael Johnson said a goal in fall camp was to develop depth behind the receiver core.

“We gotta make sure we get more consistency there,” he said. “They’re trying, they’re working hard, their focus needs to be heightened, but overall they’re doing a good job.”

Jaylon Redd (30) catches a pass mid-air. The Oregon Ducks host the Oregon State Beavers for the 121st Civil War at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. (Phillip Quinn/Emerald)

Sophomore Jaylon Redd, who had five receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown in 2017, should see an increase in snaps this season. Redd said he took lessons last season from former wide receiver Charles Nelson and defensive back Tyree Robinson.

Nelson taught him about patience, decision making and body movements, while Robinson gave Redd a different perspective from the defensive mindset.

“He used to speak to me all the time, ‘Ain’t nobody touch you,’” Redd said of Robinson. “He would tell me what a DB was looking for because he wanted to better me as well.”

Like Mitchell, Johnson III and Schooler, Redd spent some time outside of practice working with Herbert. For the wide receivers, their relationships with Herbert will be vital to the team’s success this year.

“Herbert’s an NFL-type quarterback,” Johnson III said. “You’ve got to catch it every time.”

Schooler describes catching passes from Herbert like “catching it from a jug machine. It’s perfect every time.”

Of the three core receivers, Johnson III is the youngest, but says he feels like a veteran already on the team after having to step up last year as a true freshman. This year, the depth added by several true freshmen and redshirt freshmen will relieve some pressure from Johnson III and co.

“I think this receiving core is going to surprise a lot of people,” Cristobal said.

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.