Former Oregon RB Thomas Tyner making comeback with Oregon State

Tyner.jpg
USA Today

Former Oregon RB Thomas Tyner making comeback with Oregon State

Former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, who left the Ducks' program following the 2015 season, will return to football with Oregon State, his father, John Tyner confirmed today.

The news was first reported by The Oregonian

Tyner, who according to his father is two credits shy of graduating from Oregon, will have one year of eligibility remaining. He played for Oregon in 2013 and 2014 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery prior to the 2015 season. Rather than return to the Ducks in 2016, Tyner elected to retire. 

Now 100 percent healthy and still possessing the speed that made him a state track champion and a five-star recruit coming out of Aloha High School, Tyner, 22, has decided to return to football. 

John Tyner said that the way Oregon wrote the medical retirement paper work made it so that Thomas could not return to Oregon. The irony of him landing with OSU is that Tyner flirted with the idea of going to Oregon State coming out of high school before ultimately honoring his oral commitment to the Ducks. 

"I've wanted to be a Beaver my whole life," Thomas Tyner told The Oregonian.

Tyner last played football during Oregon's 42-20 loss to Ohio State in the national championship game on Jan. 12, 2015.  He was still recovering from a serious shoulder injury suffered on Oct. 18, 2014 against Washington. Tyner returned three weeks later and played well the rest of the season, peaking with a 124-yard, two-touchdown performance during Oregon's 59-20 win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl. Tyner finished that season with 573 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for 711 and nine scores as a freshman in 2013. 

Tyner's shoulder never healed properly and surgery ended his 2015 season before it began. Six months later, it appeared that his football career had also ended. Now he is back with rival Oregon State. 

The Beavers could have one of the best backfields in the Pac-12 with Tyner and junior Ryan Nall, who last season rushed for 951 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Tyner, a speed back with size at about 210 pounds, will provide the perfect compliment to the bruising style of Nall, who is 6-2, 234 pounds. Nall is hard-charging freight train of a back that rolled over the Ducks for 155 yards and four scores during last season's Civil War victory for the Beavers. 

Nall and Tyner going up against UO running back Royce Freeman and company would make for quite the show during this season's Civil War. 

"He got better and started thinking about returning," John Tyner said about his son. "Thomas basically dances to the beat of his own drummer. He isn't in it for the glory. He just wanted to see what it would be like to finish up his career."

 

LeGarrette Blount leaves Patriots for Eagles and $2.8 million

LeGarrette Blount leaves Patriots for Eagles and $2.8 million

Former Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount has signed a one-year, $2.8 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, continuing what has been a seven-year career, and marking the second time he has left New England. 

Blount, who had his best season last year with 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns, appears to simply be chasing the money in this case. The Patriots reportedly offered Blount $2.1 million to return to New England. The Eagles' offer guarantees Blount $1.25 million and carries $1.55 million in incentives. 

"LeGarrette Blount is a tough, physical runner who has enjoyed a great deal of success in New England and we are excited about adding him to this football team," Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement. 

Philadelphia released running back Ryan Mathews, opening the door for Blount to become its starter. 

Blount, who has rushed for 5,122 yards and 49 touchdowns over his career, is heading to his fourth team. He began his career in 2010 with 1,007 yards rushing as a rookie with Tampa Bay. In 2012, he lost the starting job to Doug Martin and signed with New England in 2013 when it reached the AFC title game. 

Blount in 2014 signed with Pittsburgh but the Steelers released him during the middle of the season for repeated selfish behavior, including leaving a game before it had ended. 

That turn of events worked out well for Blount, who was scooped up by New England for a second go around that led to the Patriots defeating Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. Blount earned his second Super Bowl ring after the Patriots won 34-28 over Atlanta in February's Super Bowl LI. 

Blount could be a big part of the Eagles' attempts to upgrade their offense around quarterback Carson Wentz, who began last season well before tailing off over the final 10 games of the season. 

The Eagles have already signed wide receiver Alshon Jefferey (Chicago) and Torrey Smith (San Francisco) to upgrade Wentz' targets. 

The battering ram that is Blount should help the Eagles' running game. However, Blount has primarily thrived under the coaching of New England's Bill Belichick and while sharing the backfield with Tom Brady. 

 

 

Four Ducks set to workout at NBA combine, follow CSN for coverage

Four Ducks set to workout at NBA combine, follow CSN for coverage

Oregon made a historic run to the Final Four last season and now four key catalysts from that team will participate in the 2017 NBA Draft Combine Thursday and Friday in Chicago, Ill.

Forwards Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher, along with guard Tyler Dorsey, were invited to the annual event where NBA executives and scouts will size up the talents of players hoping to get selected in June's NBA Draft.

The 67 invited players will participate in five-on-five games and go through strength and agility drills at Chicago’s Quest Multisport.

For information on the former Ducks' progress, check back to CSNNW.com for coverage from Trail Blazers insider Jason Quick and follow him on Twitter @JWQuick.

The Trail Blazers have three picks in the first round of the draft? Could one be an Oregon Duck?

NBADraft.net projects Bell to be a late first-round pick, and for Boucher and Brooks to go late in the second round. Dorsey is not projected by the website to get selected.

 

Oregon basketball receives commitment from 5-star forward Miles Norris

Oregon basketball receives commitment from 5-star forward Miles Norris

Oregon's rebuilding process following last season's run to the Final Four received a huge boost Wednesday when five-star forward Miles Norris announced his commitment to Oregon. 

Norris, a 6-foot-9 forward out of San Diego, Calif., is rated as the No. 21 player in the nation by Rivals.com. 

Norris announced his decision live on KUSI News. 

"It felt like a great fit for me," Norris said. "Outside of basketball, I just love the student atmosphere and the fan atmosphere that they there. The facilities are amazing."

Norris' top five choices were Oregon, Gonzaga, Arizona, UCLA and San Diego State. 

Norris won't join the team until 2018. He could end up playing with 2017 five-star recruit, Troy Brown, who will one of the key pieces to next season's team as the Ducks look to recover from losing seven of their top nine players from last season's historic team. 

 

Oregon's "#TheMovement18" recruiting blitz must scoop up impact defensive linemen

Oregon's "#TheMovement18" recruiting blitz must scoop up impact defensive linemen

Oregon's coaches are killing it on the recruiting trail. They are Tweeting up a storm complete with the fresh hashtag, "TheMovement18," while using plenty of Emojis, GIFs and photos of Ducks swag in order to appeal to the talented teens they are pursuing.  

So far, the high-energy and social media-savvy recruiting tactics under new coach Willie Taggart have worked well and have fans giddy about the future. Oregon's 2018 recruiting class currently ranks No. 11 in the country, according to Rivals.com. That's coming off of a No. 18 ranking for the 2017 recruiting class, completed last February. 

Just one problem: Where are all of the impact defensive linemen?

I know, I know, it's early. Signing day is nearly nine months away. But let's be clear: All of the bells and whistles and hyped commitment gatherings won't mean squat in the end unless the new coaching staff can make a habit out of landing high-end defensive line recruits. Just ask the former coaching staff whose failure in this department from 2013 through 2016 contributed greatly to a defense that last season ranked 128th (518.4 yards per game) in the nation in total defense and 121st (246.5) against the run during a 4-8 season. 

The defensive line is so depleted with veteran talent that Taggart went out and signed graduate transfer defensive lineman Scott Pagano. The former Clemson part-time starter will instantly become the Ducks' best defensive lineman, if not best defensive player. 

Oregon must sign the Paganos of the world on the front end of their careers, not at the back end. The Ducks are trying. According to 247Sports.com, Oregon has issued offers to 24 defensive ends and 10 defensive tackles. Of those 34 players, 21 are rated as 4-star recruits, or better. However, just one is even listed as being "warm" on Oregon while 17 have either already committed, or are listed as "cool" toward Oregon. 

Here is the overall recruiting situation thus far: 

Oregon's big weekend during the spring game included receiving commitments from six recruits followed up by another on Monday. Five were rated as four-star recruits by Rivals.com while 247Sports rated six as four-star prospects.

But zero defensive linemen were included in the haul. 

The Ducks on Friday did receive a commitment from Mohamed Diallo, a three-star defensive lineman out of Arizona Western Community College. He's a nice get. At an athletic 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, Diallo could become a good player for the Ducks at nose guard in 2018. But he must be an addition, not the center piece, to what has to be a much stronger class of defensive linemen. 

Taggart made a big splash in his first recruiting go around, but not at defensive line. UO signed three, but only one is a four-star recruit, freshman early enrollee Rutger Reitmaier. He committed to Oregon last June, five months before Taggart took over the program following the firing of Mark Helfrich.

A quick turnaround for the Oregon Ducks will mostly depend on dramatic improvement from the defense, and that will require a head-turning upgrade in play from the defensive line. So give credit to the Ducks for addressing this problem with the addition of Pagano. But the future of the defensive line remains in serious doubt and must be upgraded through recruiting. 

One of the knocks on the previous staff was that they failed to recruit impact players on defense after 2012, especially within the front seven. Under former coach Chip Kelly In 2012, the Ducks signed maybe their best defensive line recruiting class ever with the additions of four-star recruits, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Alex Balducci. Buckner and Armstead both went on to become first-round NFL Draft picks by the San Francisco 49ers. Balducci signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent and is now a center with the New York Jets.

Kelly's final recruiting influence came in 2013 before he moved on to the NFL. That class, which included 13 of 19 players who committed to Oregon under Kelly, ended up with just two defensive linemen: Torrodney Prevot and Doug Brenner. Prevot actually ended up playing linebacker while Brenner played offensive line. Elijah George, a two-star recruit offensive lineman in that class, is now a reserve defensive lineman.

Let that all sink in for a minute.

The Ducks sought to recover in 2014 with the addition of five defensive line recruits. Only one, however, was rated as a four-star player and that was junior college transfer Tui Talia. Of the four three-star recruits, Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks have had the only impact. Both remain tweeners who might be undersized to be more than pass rushers. Eddie Heard, who ultimately played linebacker, and former starter, Austin Maloata, were removed from the team following their respective troubles with the law last year. 

Oregon tried again with five defensive line recruits in 2015. Again, just one was a four-star get. That was Canton Kaumatule, who appeared to have the potential to become the next Armstead or Buckner before repeated injuries and concussions slowed his development. He retired last season.  

The other four signees, all three-star recruits, remain projects. Junior Rex Manu and redshirt sophomore Gary Baker are the top returning defensive tackles. They will now play nose guard in UO's 3-4. Redshirt sophomores Drayton Carlberg and Gus Cumberlander will be competing for time at defensive end. 

UO signed four more defensive linemen in 2016. Redshirt freshman Hunter Kampmoyer and sophomore Bryson Young, a four-star recruit, have shown promise. However, Ratu Mafileo retired due to injury concerns and Wayne Tei-Kirby, thrust into action as a freshman, has transferred to BYU. 

To put all of this into perspective, consider that over the last five recruiting cycles Clemson has signed 10 four-star defensive linemen, including Pagano in 2013, and two five-star defensive linemen.

Oregon, during the past handful of years, did just fine signing players at most every other position, especially on offense. Running backs. Wide receivers. Offensive linemen. Even at quarterback where the Ducks at least signed promising four-star recruits, Morgan Mahalak (2014) and Travis Jonsen (2015). Mahalak has since transferred while Jonsen has yet to meet his potential. But, the Ducks hit big on Justin Herbert in 2016. 

Recruiting at defensive back and linebacker has been mixed, but at least some bright spots exist at those two positions. The defensive backs improved greatly last year over 2015, but a lack of a run defense and adequate pass rush left the secondary hung out to dry.

That all said, the linebacker position also needs an upgrade. Even with Balducci, Buckner and Armstead, Oregon's defense got steamrolled in the national title game by Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. One reason was Elliott's talent, another was Oregon's lack of future NFL prospects at linebacker.

But we've seen and are seeing inroads being made at the second level of defense. Sophomore linebacker Troy Dye is a budding superstar. Commit Adrian Jackson, is rated as the No. 11 outside linebacker in the nation. The 2017 class featured linebacker Sampson Niu, who committed to Oregon last June under Helfrich and was rated as the No. 12 outside linebacker in his class. 

Oregon must match that level of recruiting along the defensive line so that transfers such like Pagano are viewed more as nice additions, such as 2015 transfer center Matt Hegarty, rather than as saviors, like 2015 quarterback Vernon Adams Jr..

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Pagano could be an immediate starter opposite Mondeaux in defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt's 3-4 defense. Or, the former Clemson defensive tackle could also play nose guard. Figure he will play all over in different situational packages. 

Pagano's presence will prevent Leavitt from having to depend on a young end or nose guard that might not be ready to stand up to the rigors of the 3-4 defense.

Freshman nose guard Jordan Scott, a Taggart get, turned heads during spring drills with his athleticism and size but shouldn't be relied upon to carry the load in the middle next season. It's likely going to be up to Manu and Baker to get it done inside. 

But Pagano only buys Oregon time. All of the young defensive linemen have time to develop under position coach Joe Salave'a, considered to be a great recruiter. Helfrich's recruits could ultimately pan out. Regardless, the Ducks must move away from waiting for linemen to develop and step into an era of having a revolving door of impact defensive linemen with NFL potential flowing through the system. 

So while it's nice for Oregon that this staff has brought high energy to the recruiting trail and has landed commitments and signatures from promising recruits at many positions, the reality is that unless they can sign some Buckners, Armsteads and Balduccies, the Ducks' future will include more teams padding their offensive stats against Oregon's defense.  

Taggart wants Oregon players ready to deliver - current events

Taggart wants Oregon players ready to deliver - current events

EUGENE - Oregon's players never know when coach Willie Taggart might pounce. 

It could happen anywhere. At practice. During a workout. At dinner. In the weight room. 

Chances are, it might never come at all. Taking that chance, however, wouldn't be wise. 

"I always want to make sure I have one ready," Oregon receiver Taylor Alie said. "You don't want to be the guy he calls on and then you're scrambling."

One what? A joke? A football play? A dope rhyme? 

No. Taggart at any moment could ask any player on the team to inform him of a current event from around the world. 

"You've got to be ready to be called on," senior defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux said. "You never know."

Mixed in with the typical heavy emphasis on Xs and Os, weights, conditioning and academics, Taggart said he wants to motivate his players - often overly engrossed in their athletic careers, video games and dating - to have a greater grasp of the world around them.

"A lot of these guys are so wrapped up in football and school that they don't have a clue what's going on in the world," Taggart said. "This is a way to force them to be aware. Take a few minutes each day to learn something new that's going on."

The only punishment for not being prepared is Taggart's disappointment and some mild humiliation. Nobody wants any of that. So, players stay prepared. 

Senior cornerback Arrion Springs has yet to be called upon.

"Thanks God," he said.

But he says he is always ready, just in case. So is junior cornerback Ugo Amadi. 

"I always have one in my back pocket," he said, figuratively referring to remaining armed with a tidbit.

To stay prepared for a Taggart grilling, many players have developed news consumption habits. Amadi said he receives CNN news alerts on his laptop. 

"It will pop up and I'm like, 'oh, whelp, I've got something,'" Amadi said. 

Mondeaux said many players will check news apps just before entering the team dining room.

"Have to make sure you have something," he said. 

Sports-related news counts, as long as it's something of substance, not merely scores or transactions. But more kudos are received for actual world news. 

"We're paying attention to the news a lot more," Springs said. "There's not much to talk about except the dude in office." 

Sometimes players pool their resources, go over notes, share news discovered and have a plan in case they are called upon as a group.  

What's obvious is that more UO players have become more aware of the world they live in. 

"That's really important because you don't want to be ignorant to what's going on," Amadi said. 

And they don't want Taggart to embarrass them if they don't. 

"The fear of getting called has driven (players to research), which I think is a smart tactic," Alie said. 

If Taggart calls upon a player that happens to be unprepared, sometimes teammates will help them out by whispering to them an event to report.

"Teammate help each other out, which is fun to see," Alie said. "Guys have done well. There's a lot of interesting things I've learned that I didn't know was going on. So, it's cool."

And that, Taggart said, is the point. He wants his players to be better informed individuals. 

"It's our world," Alie said. "We've got to know what's going on."

Guard Elijah Brown announces he will transfer from New Mexico to Oregon

Guard Elijah Brown announces he will transfer from New Mexico to Oregon

The Oregon basketball team, which lost seven of its top players from last season, received a boost today when senior graduate transfer Elijah Brown announced today that he will attend Oregon.

The former New Mexico guard last season averaged 18.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range.

The The 6-foot-4 Brown, who will be a redshirt senior, was named third-team All-Mountain West last season. His best season came as a redshirt sophomore when he received second-team honors after averaging 21.7 points and 3.1 assists per game.

Brown will add much-needed scoring punch to a roster that just lost Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell as early entries to the NBA, and Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis as seniors. 

Brown figures to start in the backcourt with sophomore point guard Payton Pritchard. Five-star recruit Troy Brown could play small forward, giving the Ducks a very potent trio of perimeter scorers next season. '

Justin Herbert must improve temperament, leadership skills to reach potential

Justin Herbert must improve temperament, leadership skills to reach potential

EUGENE - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert on Saturday dealt what appeared to be a virtual knockout blow to end the quarterback competition between him, Travis Jonsen and Braxton Burmeister.

Herbert, while passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns to lead Team Free to a 34-11 victory over Team Brave, displayed what most already knew - that he is by far the best quarterback on the Ducks' roster. 

Redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. knew it. That's why last year's No. 3 quarterback decided two weeks into spring drills that he would be better off transferring. Jonsen, the No. 4 quarterback last year, has to know it by now after completing 5 of 15 passes for 86 yards and an interception while starting for Team Brave during in his third spring game at Oregon. If Burmeister, a true freshman, doesn't already know it then the talented four-star recruit will next fall when the "redshirt" label is slapped on him a week before the Southern Utah game. 

The hunch here is that Oregon coach Willie Taggart knows it, as well. He just isn't ready to state as much publicly. That's because something is gnawing at him, something he can't easily let go despite Herbert's clear superiority to the competition.  

Taggart is looking for a leader at quarterback and he doesn't see one just yet. 

When asked Saturday about Herbert's spring game performance having maybe ended the competition, the first-year Oregon coach first downplayed the performance by stating that it was just one of many outings during 15 days of spring drills.

"He had a hell of a scrimmage today but he had some bad practices, too," Taggart said. "And they all have throughout spring ball...They've all had some up and downs."

Then Taggart attacked the true crux of the situation. 

"For me, personally," Taggart said. "I'm looking for more than just throwing touchdowns. I'm looking for a guy that can lead this football team. A guy that's going to rally everybody on this team, not just the offensive guys but defense and everyone. When we can find that guy, that's when we are going to name a starter."

Translation: Herbert's leadership skills are lacking and holding him back.  

It's a concern for Taggart, a former college quarterback. Unfortunately for UO, this could be a concern that lingers well beyond next season unless Herbert makes a dramatic transformation in his overall demeanor. Taggart wants a vocal leader. Herbert is quiet. Taggart wants someone to motivate the entire roster. Herbert isn't quite fully comfortable getting after his receivers or linemen, let alone everyone in a helmet. Taggart wants a quarterback who rolls through adversity. Herbert sometimes struggles when things go badly. 

The rub here is that Jonsen and Burmeister haven't distinguished themselves as leaders, either. So while Taggart is clearly looking for that alpha dog quarterback, he might have to settle for a beta at the helm of his offense next fall. 

That doesn't have to be all bad, especially if that beta is as talented as Herbert, who last year threw for 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions over seven starts.  

Taggart talked yesterday about how the Ducks used to rally around former quarterback Marcus Mariota. Taggart wants to see the same dynamic develop under his first starting quarterback at Oregon. 

The irony here is that Taggart might have had some of the same reservations about Mariota at the same age as Herbert is now.

Let's jump into the wayback machine for a minute. 

Mariota had the benefit of redshirting as a freshman behind Darron Thomas before becoming the starter his redshirt freshman season in 2012. Mariota was hardly a leader of men at that time. In fact, there were still major questions about his leadership abilities following the 2013 season, his third year in the program.

One of the reasons Mariota elected to make the NFL wait and return to UO in 2014 was because he and his family didn't believe that he was ready to lead an NFL locker room full of grown men. Mariota stayed and improved his leadership skills during his final season at Oregon while also winning the Heisman Trophy. Still, he never blossomed into a classic vocal, alpha male quarterback. NFL scouts even questioned his leadership abilities heading into the 2015 NFL Draft. Those questions persist even today, albeit they have lessened annually as he continues to grow as a leader and develop as a quarterback with the Tennessee Titans. 

Then there's Herbert, who grew up idolizing Mariota and has the ability to one day contend for a Heisman and become a high draft pick. Not simply for his abilities, but for his demeanor. When Herbert took the program by storm, some called him "Mariota 2.0" and "Herbiota" because he mirrored Mariota's innate ability to process information, remain cool under pressure and make the right play, as well as make the spectacular seem routine. 

But they also share another trait that isn't a positive for the quarterback position. Like Mariota as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore, Herbert is more of an introvert on the field. Being a leader does not come naturally for him, as it didn't for Mariota. 

Herbert also is a mirror image of Mariota during interviews. Trying to squeeze a good quote out of either of them is like attempting to extract the milk from a coconut with a can opener. 

Herbert said Saturday that he is gradually becoming more comfortable with his role and that Taggart has been instrumental in his development. 

"Having a guy like coach T, it definitely helps," Herbert said. "He's very personable. And having guys around me that I'm comfortable with is also a huge bonus because I can be myself around them."

It cannot be understated just how much Herbert is still a kid. At this point last year he was playing high school baseball and getting ready for the Sheldon High School prom. Now he is viewed as the potential savior of a program that just underwent an emotional and difficult separation from it's former staff of long-time coaches following a disastrous 4-8 season and handed the reigns to a young coach easing into his first Power Five Conference job.

Herbert is learning his second college offense in nine months, so one would expect him to have "ups and downs" during a 15-practice spring stretch. Herbert had bad days last fall, as well, which is why he didn't beat out senior Dakota Prukop during fall camp. But once he settled into the offense, it became clear to former coach Mark Helfrich and his staff that they had to get Herbert onto the field.

If not for UO's pitiful defense (41.4 points allowed per game), and a down season for injury-plagued running back Royce Freeman, Herbert's impressive play might have saved the jobs of the former coaching staff. His numbers per game were on par with Mariota's in 2012 when the team went 12-1, and and in 2013, when the Ducks were 11-2. 

But while Herbert played his position well, he wasn't nearly ready to carry a team on his back, physically or emotionally.  Anyone who believes a young Mariota could have won more with last year's team would be mistaken. The 2012 Oregon defense allowed 21.6 points allowed per game. Running back Kenjon Barner flirted with being a Heisman Trophy candidate while assisting Mariota with 1,717 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

All of that said, one major difference exists when comparing the two at the same age. Mariota better handled adversity. Herbert, according to a source on last year's team, could at times become fragile emotionally when things went badly. That trait popped up again here and there during spring, according to a current team source. Mariota, on the other hand, led by example with his demeanor despite not being vocal, and inspired his teammates with his steely presence. 

Again, we're talking about a young man who just turned 19 in March and has yet to have completed his first year of college. So, it's not a knock on Herbert that he is still maturing. It's just a fact, and one that Taggart is allowing to be a factor as he evaluates the quarterback position. 

That all said, Oregon's best chance for a quick turnaround in 2017 is for Herbert to be at the helm, not Jonsen or Burmeister. But Taggart believes that if Herbert can improve his temperament and leadership skills, the Ducks could win more games than it would otherwise. 

Taggart has seen quarterbacks with strong personalities turn teams around before. 

While a running backs coach at Stanford in 2009, Taggart watched Andrew Luck blossom into a leader and change the overall culture and mentality of the team as a redshirt freshman. As the head coach at South Florida, Taggart didn't start tasting success until quarterback Quinton Flowers grew into a leader that his teammates rallied around as a sophomore in 2015.

Herbert will be entering year two of his college career next fall. He has accomplished more than Luck, Flowers and Mariota had entering their second years on a college campus, but Herbert lags behind in just that one area of concern.  

Another point must also be made here. Taggart might be looking for a leader but he needs a baller at quarterback, first and foremost. 

In the days leading up to the spring game, Taggart said he wanted to see which players would "show up and show out." Strange things, as he put it, happen to players when they enter a game situation and must perform under the spotlight.

To that end, Herbert delivered, as he did most of last season, while Jonsen and Burmeister faltered. 

Whatever temperament issues Herbert might have, this is still a guy who played better as the game went on against eventual Pac-12 champion Washington during a 71-20 loss at Autzen Stadium. He brought Oregon back at California with six touchdown passes only to fall short in overtime. And, Herbert led the Ducks on a game-winning drive in the final minute at Utah. The game-winner, with seconds remaining, went to Darren Carrington II in the corner of the end zone on a throw that NFL superstars, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady could not exceed.  

So, Herbert has indeed proven he can bounce back from adversity. His talent is undeniable. The question entering the summer will be, can he take is overall mental makeup to the next level sooner, rather than later. 

Taggart said he is looking for team leadership across the board over the summer on a team that last season suffered from a severe lack of leaders. 

"I think the offseason is going to be big," Taggart said. "When I talk about who can lead this team, who can get their teammates out there to work on their craft when the coaches can't be there."

Taggart said he didn't see enough of self-starter mentality in January from anyone, even the quarterbacks. He hopes to see it more this summer. 

"It starts with the quarterback," Taggart said. "Who can get his teammates to go out there and work when the NCAA doesn't allow us to be out there with them. That's what's going to make us a better football team."

Herbert's physical play will give the Ducks a chance to win most games on their schedule next season. But UO likely won't contend for a Pac-12 title until Herbert's leadership skills and temperament catch up with his elite-level physical gifts. 

Oregon Spring game: Herbert and Team Free win 34-11

Oregon Spring game: Herbert and Team Free win 34-11

Team Free 34, Team Brave 11

How Team Free won: For starters, Team Free had quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw for touchdown passes to lead his team to the win Saturay at Autzen Stadium. 

While it's unfair to judge a quarterback competition based on a spring game, the fact is that the sophomore, who started seven games last season, appeared to be vastly superior to Team Brave's quarterbacks, redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen and freshman Braxton Burmeister

Herbert threw two touchdowns in the first half. The first went for 13 yards on a throw to senior receiver Darren Carrington II that ended a 75-yard opening drive for Team Free. 

In the second quarter, Herbert found Carrington for a 30-yard touchdown to make the score 14-3. 

On the other side, Jonsen had a couple of highlight plays in the first half. He escaped pressure and then flipped a pass into the left flat to redshirt junior running back Tony Brooks-James for a gain of 19 to the Team Brave 47. Later, Jonsen threw deep down the left sideline to sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell for 44 yards to the Team Free 30. That set up 36-yard field goal from redshirt freshman kicker Zach Emerson.

But other than that, Jonsen wasn't very impressive. He misfired on a couple of passes and had a deep ball intercepted when Team Free senior cornerback Arrion Springs snatched the ball out of the sky and fell to the ground at the 16. 

Burmeister flashed some serious running skills and certainly has a quality arm, but he also looked like a freshman. In the first half, he threw too early on a pass to senior receiver Charles Nelson, the pass was tipped and intercepted by freshman defensive back Billy Gibson.  

Herbert went 16 of 26 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Jonsen was 5 of 15 for 86 yards with one interception. Burmeister was 3 of 7 for 63 yards and was sacked four times. He did rush for 57 yards on 

The game was limited to 24 minutes of running clock in the second half. 

Top performers: Brook-James gained 71 yards on 18 carries in the first half but was banged up on a pass play when Burmeister hung him out do dry on a deep ball and Springs hit him as the ball arrived. 

Brooks-James returned to action and in the fourth quarter scored on a one-yard run. He finished with 84 yards rushing and caught three passes for 43 yards. 

Freshman wide receiver Darrian McNeal caught four passes for 54 yards for Team Free.

Punter Blake Maimonte averaged 45.2 yards on four punts with a long of 49. 

Mitchell had three receptions for 75 yards for Team Brave. 

Carrington had three touchdown on four receptions for 116 yards. 

Royce Freeman rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries and a 1-yard touchdown for Team Free.

Plays of the game: Senior running back Kani Benoit, who finished with 105 yards on five carries,  took a hand off in the third quarter, cut left to open field then turned it up before crossing at an angle to the right side of the field to finish off a 95-yard socring run for Team Free to make the score 28-3. 

In the fourth quarter, Herbert heaved a deep pass down the right sideline toward a well-covered Carrington. But he leaped over the defender to haul in the pass for a 44-yard gain to the 17-yard line. 

Five Ducks' spring game storylines: No. 5 - Coaching staff's "juice."

Five Ducks' spring game storylines: No. 5 - Coaching staff's "juice."

Oregon's spring game kicks off at 11 a.m. on Saturday.  Here is a look at one of the five reasons why you should care. 

No. 5: The coaching staff's "juice."

Oregon coach Willie Taggart requires his assistant coaches to bring "juice" to the party. 

Translation: Coach with infectious enthusiasm that energizes and inspires the players to want to get better. 

Practices are filled with dozens of moments of coaches reacting excitedly to great plays and strong effort put forth by efforts. 

They aggressively pat guys on the helmet, give them shoves, jump around like little kids and scream and yell with words of encouragement and affirmation for a job well done. 

The "juice."

"We'll always have fun," Taggart said. "It's football. We've got to have fun doing it. It's work, too. We're going to work. We're going to challenge our guys. We're going to coach aggressively. But we're going to have fun while we're doing it. I don't like being boring. We're going to have fun while we're doing this. I think sometimes we take it too seriously where we don't go out and have fun."

The coaching staff is split for the spring game with half of the team coaching Team "Brave" and the other half coaching Team "Fire." Given that there should be a good crowd at Autzen Stadium, and it's the first big event for this staff at Oregon, one would assume that energy and emotion could be high. 

Expect to see a bunch of coaches being quite animated on the sidelines. 

 

Other entries: No. 1 - QB Travis Jonsen; No. 2 - CB Thomas Graham Jr.; No. 3 - Search for WR depth; No. 4 - DL Jordan Scott.