HOLLYWOOD — With so many questions heading into the 2017 season for Oregon football, head coach Willie Taggart, quarterback Justin Herbert and linebacker Troy Dye had lots of time in front of a microphone at Pac-12 media days in Hollywood.
It is a city famed for its glamour and showmanship, but it was time for business for the Ducks.
There’s a lot changing
Willie Taggart: “It seemed like Justin went to bed one night and said ‘let’s go.’ He’s just changed. Whether it’s in the weight room, competing with the other guys, he’s gained about 15 pounds from last year. Justin’s walking outside with his shirt off now, and if you all know Justin, that wasn’t him before. He’s laughing, he’s hanging out with other guys. I get a text from him almost every other day. It’s been great, I’m excited for the young man.”
Justin Herbert: “I think just overall the offseason went really well. 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.”
Herbert on Marcus Mariota advice: “He just told us to stay focused if things go bad or not the way we want them to. We’ve got to stay focused and take care of the next play.”
Troy Dye: “Just coming together as a team, bonding together. That’s what his whole philosophy is because if you understand that you have to respect your brother and have to love your brother and go out there and fight for him every day, it’s easy to play the game. It’s easy to play the game. It’s easy to fight for someone that you know on a personal level. I feel like last year, guys didn’t really know each other as much and we had like tight little groups. I feel like this year, everybody’s more incorporated as a team because we do a lot more team bonding.”
It’s not all fun and games, but there’s still plenty of fun
Dye on Jim Leavitt’s love for Pepsi: “I can’t put a number on that. I’ve seen him drink three in one meeting. He can go through a lot—I think he can go through a 12-pack a day. I really don’t know how much they’re spending on Pepsi’s.”
Dye on Taggart: “He just brings a lot of swagger. 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. 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.’ Just seeing that out of a head coach, really down to earth guy. You can go talk to him; you can go into his office and hang out with him. 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.”
The pieces on offense are falling into place
Herbert on quarterbacks Terry Wilson Jr. and Travis Jonsen transferring: “I really liked both of them. I think they were both really good quarterbacks and it’s kind of tough with the quarterback position because only one guy can play. It was really competitive and I wish them the best. Braxton [Burmeister], he’s a really good quarterback. He’s athletic. He can throw the ball really well. I’ve really been impressed with him so far. I’m comfortable with Braxton.”
Herbert likes what he sees in the offensive line: “I think it’s awesome to have so many guys, so many options. The o-line is interchangeable. You need to have more than just five guys to play. I’ve got complete confidence in the guys that are the back ups, guys like George Moore and Brady [Aiello]—those guys are ready.”
Herbert: “I would say the emphasis is on going fast. 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.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow