Injuries are a fact of life in football, and Oregon has had its fair share of them in 2019. Now, Oregon is attempting to fill a Jacob Breeland-sized hole at tight end after he sustained a left leg injury that will cost him the rest of his senior season. His absence was felt in the first half against Washington, a stretch in which the Oregon offense struggled to get going and Justin Herbert was seemingly missing a reliable third-down target.
“It’s tough for him,” tight end Hunter Kampmoyer said on Oct. 15. “It's tough for all of us.”
Breeland dominated in the six games he suited up for this season and was arguably one of the best tight ends in college football. He had 26 receptions for 405 yards and six touchdowns — and the Herbert-Breeland connection was as potent as any in the country.
However, Breeland’s absence will now provide opportunities for Kampmoyer, Spencer Webb and Ryan Bay to replicate that kind of production.
“It’s really unfortunate to see a teammate, a friend go down like that,” Kampmoyer said. “We need to step up. The season’s going to continue. We all need to step up our roles.”
Webb answered the call against the Huskies. The freshman had the best game of his young career, hauling in two passes for 31 yards and a touchdown — the second of his career.
Webb came to Oregon as a four-star recruit and consensus top 10 tight end in the class of 2018.
He spent a large chunk of the season at wide receiver due to the high volume of injuries the receiving corps dealt with, but now that Breeland is out, Webb at tight end could see his targets and touchdown opportunities increase.
Veterans Bay and Kampmoyer will have to be factors in the passing game as well. Bay has not been a focal point in the receiving game for the Ducks for much of his career, but he has a lot of experience.
“Those guys, they’ve logged a lot of football, and they understand our systems really well,” head coach Mario Cristobal said of Bay and Kampmoyer. “Complete confidence in them entering this football game.”
Bay has not registered a reception since the Montana game. He hauled in a touchdown against Nevada but he has not proven to be a consistent red zone threat.
Kampmoyer has been even quieter on the receiving front — his only reception came against Nevada in September.
Kampmoyer and Bay were used mostly as perimeter blockers to support the run game against Washington and the upstart rushing attack in the second half proved to be the difference in the game. Cristobal praised both Kampmoyer and Bay in Saturday’s post-game interview, commending them on their run blocking.
“Can’t say enough about both Ryan Bay and Hunter Kampmoyer with their efforts in the running game,” Cristobal said. “And their protection as well — they did a really good job of protecting the quarterback.”
Deeper down on Oregon’s depth chart is Patrick Herbert, younger brother of Justin Herbert. Patrick has appeared in two games this season and could be called upon if another tight end goes down.
Injuries are a part of football and Oregon will need to find a way to replace Breeland’s production. With Bay and Kampmoyer ready for the challenge, they’ll look to make a statement Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.