Aaron Fentress

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

Oregon QB Justin Herbert reacts to loss of Carrington, thin WR depth

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert might be the most impacted by the departure of senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. 

But Herbert said he is standing by coach Willie Taggart's decision to remove Carrington from the team following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1

"I think Darren has moved on and we have too," Herbert said. "We have a lot of great receivers still on the roster, so we're going to get those guys ready and let them make plays."

Carrington would have been the team's unchallenged No. 1 receiver. Now he will look to do damage with Utah after transferring there this week. Taggart warned the team when he took over in December that breaking rules would have consequences. Following through with Carrington, who has a track record of sketchy behavior, reinforced that mantra. 

"I don't know if he was trying to send a message," Herbert said. "He's a man of his word. He's the leader of this team. He's the head guy. We've just got to listen to him because he knows what he's talking about."

Herbert said he is confident in the pass catchers that remain, starting with senior slot Charles Nelson. 

"Charles is going to be a huge name this year," Herbert said.

The man to likely replace Carrington on the outside will be sophomore Dillon Mitchell, who last season caught one pass for nine yards. 

"He's going to be a great receiver," Herbert said. 

Nelson and Mitchell won't hardly be enough. Oregon has a history of seeing receivers get injured. Depth will be a concern unless younger players rise to the occasion. 

"But I think the main focus is getting the younger guys ready," Herbert said. "They gotta get the offense down and just have timing with them and gain confidence with them."

Freshman on the spot will be Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III and Darrian McNeal, who might have earned a spot in the rotation during spring drills after arriving early to campus. Redshirt sophomore Malik Lovette could start now that Carrington is gone. 

"Fortunately we've had enough workouts where I think we have a lot of promising guys," Herbert said. 

Tight end depth will be an issue after losing three seniors, but the starting position should be fine with sophomore Jacob Breeland. 

"I know where he's going and he knows where I'm going," he said. "Just the entire year we've spent has been a huge bonus."

Despite the positive spin, losing Carrington's talent certainly will hurt. But losing the distraction he often brings could prove to be a blessing. 

Oregon to reduce number of uniform combinations in 2017

Oregon to reduce number of uniform combinations in 2017

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon football coach Willie Taggart moments ago at Pac-12 Media Days said that the Ducks would not wear a different uniform combination for every game this season like it had during most seasons in recent years. 

"We're not going to have 12," he said. "We're going to cut back."

Taggart wouldn't elaborate on exactly how many combinations Oregon would wear, only saying that they are set for 2017 and 2018. 

"We're going to be sharp," Taggart said. "But you won't see as many different combinations. We want to play football. Those uniforms are really nice when you have a really good football team."

Oregon went 4-8 last year. 

Oregon is famous for its seemingly infinate number of uniform combination. Watch a Marcus Mariota highlight video and it looks like he played for 25 different teams. That will change under Taggart. At least for now. 

"We've got to do some good things and play well to make those uniforms look like we want them to," he said. 

Oregon sophomore linebacker Troy Dye said he likes the new philosophy.

"You've got to earn back the stripes to wear a different uniform every week," he said. "Just try to get that trust back from Nike and show them that we're still a top tier school and win big games."

Nike, huh? When pressed, Dye said Taggart didn't tell the team why the were not having as many combinations this season. He just assumed it was because of Nike due to a poor season.

"I just figured," Dye said. 

Dye said he didn't give much thought to the uniform combinations last season but in hindsight he can see how they might have looked a bit silly given how poorly the team played. Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert agreed.

"Looking back at it we probably didn't earn them," Herbert said. 

Doubling back to Taggart, when informed of Dye's comments he said that Nike was not behind the change. Taggart said there will still be plenty of combinations just not a new one each game. That in itself will be a big change for Oregon. 

 

Thomas Tyner a luxury for Oregon State's already strong running game

Thomas Tyner a luxury for Oregon State's already strong running game

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Former Oregon running back Thomas Tyner, making a comeback with Oregon State, is not yet the running back he was while with the Ducks in 2014. 

“He’s gained some weight but our weight room coaches have done a good job of getting him into shape,” OSU senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Days. 

Tyner is listed at 232 pounds on OSU's website, up 17 from the 215 he played at for the Ducks before his 2015 ended following preseason shoulder surgery.  

“Thomas is a great addition,” junior RB Ryan Nall said. “He’s got to be back into the flow of things. It’s kind of hard after being out of the game for two years and jumping back in.”

Tyner is not carrying blubber, according to Nall. The former Aloha High School star has simply bulked up beyond the ideal weight for him to take advantage of his speed that made him a 6A champion in the 100 meters while at Aloha. Nall said Tyner definitely appeared to be a bit rusty and slow during the team's first practice this earlier week.

“But he’s still got it," Nall said. "Once he chips that rust off and gets back into it, I think he’ll do good things for us.”

Tyner played at 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 he's got the itch to return to the field. The way his medical retirement was written didn't allow for him to return to Oregon. Tyner had considered going to OSU out of high school so heading to the Beavers was a natural fit.  

"I definitely missed it," Tyner told reporters Tuesday in Corvallis. "I think it's just more excited than anything. I'm excited to get to play this season." 

Hungalu said he definitely saw flashes of the old Tyner during that first practice. 

“He did a good job running the ball,” Hungalu said. “He looked how he looked at Oregon, which is a good thing for us.”

It will be interesting to see how Tyner fits in. He had a productive career at UO but Nall is the man for the Beavers.

Tyner said he expects to learn a lot from Nall in terms of operating within the Beavers' offense. For Tyner, returning is more about erasing the prospects of always wondering what he could have done next on the football field than it is about being the guy. 

"Once you're about ready to be done with school and you have to figure out what you want to do with your life and I don't like living with 'what ifs," he said. "I felt like the 'what if' was football with me. I didn't want to go out how I did, medically retiring. I felt like I owed it to myself."

Oregon State's bowl dreams will become reality in Gary Andersen's third year

Oregon State's bowl dreams will become reality in Gary Andersen's third year

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - This time, fantasy will become bowl game reality for Oregon State. 

OSU players invited to take part in Pac-12 Media Days the past two seasons under coach Gary Andersen talked openly about their goals of reaching a bowl game.  It didn't happen. Not even close. Instead, the Beavers went 2-10 in 2015 (zero wins in the Pac-12) in Andersen's first season after replacing Mike Riley, and then 4-8 last season (3-6 Pac-12). 

To be fair, the players' beliefs were largely based on competitiveness, hope, bravado and perhaps some innocent delusion. This time around, however, the Beavers truly have good reason to believe that the program could realistically return to a bowl game for the first time since winning the Hawaii Bowl in 2014. 

Junior running back Ryan Nall and senior linebacker Manase Hungalu expressed such sentiments during today's media session. For the first time in three years, such talk didn't sound like a misguided pipe dream.  That's because for the first time during the Andersen era, the Beavers might actually have both the physicality and mental toughness to get it done. 

"This is a part of a process," Hungalu said. "It's just a process that we're building upon. Coach A is doing a great job with that. And we all understand that in order for what we want, we just have to continue to keep working and continue to keep playing and the results will show for itself."

Oregon State will likely never be a place where high-end recruits flock. Nor will it ever have the resources that nearby Oregon and Washington possess. But that doesn't mean the Beavers can't win. It just means that they have to be more calculating and deliberate to get it done. 

Unheralded recruits must be developed through patience and great coaching. Both physically and mentally. Last year, Andersen said here that the Beavers had to become more physical after getting pushed around by opponents in 2014. 

The Beavers were certainly tougher last season, improving by about a touchdown in both points scored and points allowed, moving from 19 points scored per game in 2015 with 37 allowed to 26 and 30. . That allowed the Beavers to play in more close games.

"At the end of the day we played physically with every team in this league," Andersen said. "That is very, very important."

That progression continued this summer with 50 players, Andersen said, who can now squat 500 pounds or more. 

However, mentally the Beavers simply weren't ready to win enough of those games to become bowl eligible. 

OSU lost three games by seven points or less: 30-23 at Minnesota, 19-14 vs. Utah and 35-31 vs. Washington State. Three other losses came by 14 or less, meaning OSU was at least in those contests. 

Losing close contests stuck with Nall all offseason. Especially the Washington State game in which the Beavers led 24-6 at halftime only to see WSU scored 22 points in the third quarter and ultimately win, 35-31.

"Our execution," Nall said. "It comes down to that. Whether it's on offense or defense, make sure we do our assignment instead of doing too much If we do the little things. If we execute. We will have a chance to win every single game."

Hungalu agrees. 

"I go back to being consistent and disciplined," he said. "Those games slipped away from us from little mistakes. Mistakes that shouldn't have happened."

So, while the team focused last year on becoming stronger and tougher, this offseason they worked as much on their mental approach. 

Andersen spent part of the offseason going through different situations and scenarios from last season that went south to try and pinpoint areas of concern. 

Andersen said mistakes and silly penalties cost the team and must be cleaned up this season. That endeavor will include some simplification to improve coaching and teaching and overall team-wide communication. 

"I think that naturally happens in three years," Andersen said. "But now it needs to be automatic."

Could a dramatic turnaround be in store for the Beavers?

Why not? Colorado did it. Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre won a total of 10 games during his first three seasons before going 10-4 (8-1). Colorado hadn't reached a bowl game since 2007 before taking the Pac-12 by surprise to win the South and reach the conference title game where the Buffaloes lose to Washington. 

Nall said the Beavers hope to duplicate Colorado's sudden success.

"I definitely see ourselves doing that," Nall said. "I have confidence in our team. I trust the process with Coach A and our staff. I believe we're going to have a successful year."

For the first time in years, such talk shouldn't be dismissed. 

Cal's Wilcox talks hiring former UO O-Line coach Steve Greatwood

Cal's Wilcox talks hiring former UO O-Line coach Steve Greatwood

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - When California named Justin Wilcox head football coach on Jan. 14 he wasted little time extending a job offer to former Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood. 

"Whatever day it was that I got hired, I want to say that he was there the next morning," Wilcox, a former Oregon defensive back, said today during Pac-12 Media Days. 

In fact, Wilcox already had Greatwood in place in anticipation of landing the Cal job. Cal announced Wilcox as its next head coach on Jan. 14.  CSN broke the news that same day that Greatwood would be headed to Cal.

"I think the world of him as a person," Wilcox, 40, said. "I think his track record speaks for itself in terms of his coaching and we're fortunate to have him on our staff. He's the type of guy that everybody can learn from. I know he's energized. It's been really great to be back around him. It's been a number of years since I've got to see him a lot. Just really fortunate for us. A lot of experience."

Wilcox and Greatwood, 59, have Oregon connections but weren't there at the same time. Wilcox played defensive back for the Ducks from 1996 through 1999.  Greatwood coached offensive line and tight ends from 1982 through 1994 before moving on to the NFL, Maryland and then USC. He returned to Oregon in 2000 and remained there until the entire staff was let go last fall following a 4-8 season.  

Greatwood, however, did coach Wilcox's older brother Josh, who played tight end at UO from 1993 through 1996. The Wilcox brothers are the sons of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and former Oregon star Dave Wilcox and hail from Junction City, Ore. 

California running back Tre Watson, whom Greatwood helped attempt recruit to Oregon, said the offensive line appears to be responding well to its new coach. 

"He definitely makes it simper for the offensive line so they're able to pick things up," Watson said. "He brings a different dynamic."

Media doesn't expect Oregon football to make dramatic turnaround

Media doesn't expect Oregon football to make dramatic turnaround

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Media members who cover the Pac-12 apparently aren't buying that the Oregon Ducks will make a dramatic turnaround in 2017 under first-year coach Willie Taggart. 

The media has picked Oregon to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North behind Washington, Stanford and Washington State. OSU is picked to finish fifth. Results were announced today just hours before Pac-12 Media Days begin in Hollywood, Calif. 

The prediction flies in the face of the Las Vegas betting odds that have the over/under for Oregon's win totals at eight. Although it's mathematically possible for the Ducks, 4-8 last season, to go 8-4 and still finish fourth in the Pac-12 North the chances of that occurring are slim. 

Cal finished fourth in the Pac-12 North last year with a 5-7 record, 3-6 in the conference. Arizona State placed fourth in the South, also with a 5-7 record (2-7 overall). 

What's curious is that one pollster picked Oregon to win the North and the Pac-12 title game.

The media picked USC to win the South and the Pac-12 championship. 

Here are the polling results:

NORTH DIVISION  

1. Washington (49 1st votes)

2. Stanford (1)

3. Washington State (1)

4. Oregon (1)

5. Oregon State

6. California

SOUTH DIVISION  

1. USC (49)

2. Utah (1)

3. UCLA (1)

4. Colorado (1)

5. Arizona State

6. Arizona

PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION: USC (28 votes), Washington (22), Oregon (1), Utah (1).

Willie Taggart addresses discipline philosophies that led to Carrington's dismissal

Willie Taggart addresses discipline philosophies that led to Carrington's dismissal

EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart, speaking in general terms during an interview with CSNNW for an upcoming television special, laid out his philosophies for discipline that ultimately led him to dismiss senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr from the team following his arrest for DUII in the early morning hours of July 1. 

"It's tough," Taggart said about having a player fail to meet his standards. "But you set rules. You set rules and you let them know you're going to hold them accountable."

Carrington, who on Friday pleaded not guilty to the charges while appearing in a Eugene courtroom, is seeking a place to land as a graduate transfer. His departure hurt an already thin UO receiving corps. But when Taggart took over the program last December he made it clear to the players that he expected them to conduct themselves properly on and off the field. Carrington, with his history of transgressions, had a short leash to work with given his history under the Mark Helfrich regime. 

Taggart, as recently as June 30, praised Carrington's improvement in the areas of being leader, academics (he graduated in the spring) and on-field performance some 13 hours before Carrington's arrest.  In addition to the DUII, Carrington was also cited for careless driving.

The news of Carrington's arrest greatly disappointed Taggart, who thought he had gotten through to the star receiver, who could use a big senior season to improve his NFL Draft stock, which has taken a beating over the years. 

Taggart, who was mentored by his former coach at Western Kentucky, Jack Harbaugh, and his son, Michigan coach and former NFL quarterback and current  Jim Harbaugh, said he prides himself on helping his young players become men.

"I tell parents we're going to send them back better men then they were when they got here," Taggart said.

When he fails to get through to one, Taggart feels the disappointment.

"I tell them all, 'I'm going to have your back. No matter what, I'm going to have your back! But you've got to have my back,'" Taggart said. "'And the way you have my back is by being the best football player you can be, the best student you can be and having the best character you can have.' That's all I ask."

Taggart said the response from Oregon's players to his philosophies has been positive, as they were during previous coaching stops at South Florida and Western Kentucky. In those two cases, Taggart turned around losing cultures that included some discipline problems here and there. 

"In the past two jobs I've taken over, there's always someone that's going to come out and test the waters," he said. "A lot of times I don't think they necessarily try to, they are just caught up in doing things the way they've been doing them for so long that it's just hard to just change at some point. You just hope that they do."

Taggart said players must meet at least two of his three requirements in order to be on the team: Be a good student. Display high character. Be a good player. 

"You can't have just one and think you're going to be on this football team," Taggart said. "If you have two then we'll work with you on the one you're struggling with and we'll try to get you up to par. I feel like if each one of these young men have those things in order they are going to be very successful in college."

Carrington became the first Ducks player to fail within the Taggart philosophy and lose his place on the team. Unfortunately, it's likely that he won't be the last.  

"You set rules and you hold them accountable," Taggart said. "You don't play any favoritism. You don't sweep anything under the rug. You hold them accountable to what you say you're going to do. And that's what I do. Me, I'm going to be there for you but if you break the rules there's consequences and you're going to serve those consequences if that happens. I think all of the players know that we're going to be fair. You want them all to know that you're serious about the discipline part of it and doing things the right way."

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver.  

We've already listed several freshman in this list. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister will likely be the backup now that Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr. have transferred. Cornerback Thomas Graham could start, he was that good during spring. Nose tackle Jordon Scott will be needed in the middle, especially now that junior Rex Manu is out for the season following an injury suffered in a car accident. Slot receiver Darrian McNeal must provide depth at a thin position made thinner by the dismissal of senior Darren Carrington Jr. from the team. Safety Billy Gibson could be in the mix at a very uncertain position. 

All of the freshmen above were around for spring drills as early enrollees. But what of the incoming freshmen who have just arrived on campus? Well, several of them might be needed to perform this season, as well.  

Here is as look at a handful:

Austin Faoliu, defensive line: Oregon is excited about the three-star recruit with five-star potential. At 6-foot4, 295-pounds, he fits the mold of being a big defensive lineman with attitude that could provide instant impact. This is the first defensive line recruit corralled by famed defensive line coach and recruiter, Joe Salave'a. Four-star recruit Rutger Reitmaier's decision to transfer following spring ball makes Faoliu's development more imperative. 

Deommodore Lenoir, defensive back: The No. 1-rated athlete in the nation - as named by Rivals.com - should find his way onto the field in some capacity. He could see time at cornerback or safety, positions that have bodies but little in the way of consistency. 

Sampson Niu, linebacker: The four-star recruit could find his way into the linebacker rotation right away. Ultra athletic and tenacious, if Niu can pick up the Ducks' schemes he might have the same impact Troy Dye had last season as a freshman. But at 217 pounds, Niu must bulk up in a hurry. 

Bruce Judson, wide receiver: The four-star recruit is a shifty playmaker that could push for time in the slot and might also be in the running to make it on the team's depth chart at quarterback. 

Cyrus Habibi-Likio, linebacker/safety/running back: A tremendous athlete, Habibi-Likio could play all over the field. Chances are he won't be in the running back mix this season - Oregon is loaded there - but he could find some action on defense. 

 

The Finished List

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

Oregon RB Royce Freeman to be added to Doak Walker Award watch list

Oregon RB Royce Freeman to be added to Doak Walker Award watch list

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman will be added to the Doak Walker Award watch list today, according to Chris Perry, spokesperson for the prestigious award given annually to the best running back in the college football.

As it turns out, Freeman's name was left off of the initial 61-player list because Oregon had not submitted his name to Doak Walker officials.

Oregon's sports information department has gone through a transition this summer with long-time director Dave Williford retiring and being replaced by Jimmy Stanton. 

The Doak Walker Award sent out its initial request for nominees on June 19. Players can be nominated through October. Universities are entrusted to submit qualified candidates based on certain criteria award officials trust the programs to filter through, Perry said. 

Freeman meets all of the criteria but his name had yet to be submitted. Stanton took over the department in late June but has been in the process of relocating and preparing for the upcoming season.  An Oregon source said that nobody in the department was aware of the request for nominations. 

CSN reached out to the Doak Walker Award for clarification as to why Freeman, who has rushed for 4,148 yards and 44 touchdowns during his career, only to find out that the the Ducks had not submitted his name.

But, all is well now. No harm done. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 9 - DBs Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 9 - DBs Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

The safety position is going to be one of the most hotly contested this fall. As of now, it appears that redshirt senior Tyree Robinson and redshirt junior Khalil Oliver have the inside track to start. Robinson's days as a cornerback could be over with the emergence of freshman Thomas Graham, who could start opposite senior Arrion Springs while pushing junior Ugo Amadi to the No. 3 corner spot. 

Safety isn't nearly as settled, however. Sophomore Brendan Schooler saw starts last year but missed all of spring with an injury and isn't being viewed as an obvious candidate to start moving forward. 

That's where redshirt freshman Brady Breeze and freshman Billy Gibson come in. The Ducks need both to show something this fall to not only push the veterans but to provide depth and, maybe more importantly, create stability at the position entering 2018. 

Breeze, a four-star recruit in 2016, has demonstrated great ability but is also very young and likely needs much more time before he becomes starting-caliber.  Gibson, a three-star recruit signed last February,  falls into the same category but, according to coaches, showed some strong signs during spring drills that he has enough athleticism to make an immediate impact if he picks up the defense. 

Senior Juwaan Williams and junior Fotu T. Leiato II should also be in the mix. But for the present, and the future, it would benefit Oregon greatly if Breeze and Gibson could make a push up Oregon's depth chart. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver