EUGENE - If Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert were to go down this season, it's a wrap. Season over. Thanks for coming. See you next year.
All thanks to Travis Jonsen.
While most teams would suffer from the loss of its starting quarterback, the Ducks enter this season in worse shape behind their starter than they were from 2013 through 2015.
The Ducks have five quarterbacks on the roster. Well, one quarterback and four guys wearing red jerseys trying to become collegiate quarterbacks. Things are so precarious that freshman Demetri Burch, recruited as an athlete, is playing quarterback out of sheer necessity.
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Marcus Arroyo, when asked to describe the quarterback room simply stated, "minus Justin, inexperience. That's probably the best word."
There you have it. And let's not forget that Herbert is just a sophomore. How bad is the situation? Let's take a look (the following is not exactly a depth chart):
1. Herbert, a potential phenom and sure-fire future NFL quarterback.
2. Braxton Burmeister: A true freshman and four-star recruit who by all accounts is not going to be a freshman sensation like Herbert proved to be last season.
3. Taylor Alie: A senior who played receiver last year and held for kicks after seeing some time at quarterback in 2015 after Vernon Adams Jr. went down with a broken finger. Completed six of 14 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
4. Mike Irwin: A walk-on from Lakeridge High School.
5. Demetri Burch: An athletic, three-star recruit whose high school quarterback highlights consist mostly of running plays. He would likely be playing receiver if not for all of the uncertainty at quarterback.
"We felt like he was doing some really nice things as a young guy in our room to build some depth," Arroyo said.
Most teams don't ask a likely receiver to provide depth at quarterback when they already have four quarterbacks in place unless there is a feeling that those quarterbacks are iffy.
Fortunately for Oregon, Herbert, listed at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, packed on about 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason. Knocking him out of games won't be easy.
But things happen. When Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury in 2007, the Ducks turned to senior Brady Leaf, a very capable backup. But, he went down as well and the Ducks' national title hopes went kaput.
In 2015, the Ducks endured a rotation of Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie after Adams went down with a broken finger. The results were not pretty. Three of Oregon's four losses came in games Adams did not finish or didn't start. The finale was the blown 31-point lead to TCU in the Alamo Bowl in which Adams left the game with a concussion late in the second quarter.
Oregon hopes that Burmeister will create a situation like the Ducks had with Joey Harrington and A.J. Feeley (1999-2000), Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens (2002-2003), Clemens and Dixon (2004-2005), Darron Thomas and Bryan Bennett (2011) and Benett and Marcus Mariota (2012).
The 2012 duo was the last time the Ducks had security at the backup quarterback position until last year when Herbert emerged to become the starter with senior Dakota Prukop relegated to backup duties.
That brings us back to Jonsen. New Oregon coach Willie Taggart hoped the redshirt sophomore would embrace competing with Herbert and remain on the team to at least provide a strong backup. But the former four-star recruit saw the writing on the wall and it read, "Herbert = superstar," so he bounced to a junior college in hopes of latching on to a big time program in the future.
Jonsen's departure has set Oregon up for potential disaster. One could also point to redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr.'s decision to transfer during the spring.
It's tough to keep quality quarterbacks around to sit as backups. Bennett lasted just one year as Mariota's backup before leaving to become the starter at Southeastern Louisiana.
Oregon's 2018 recruiting class is loaded. Missing, however, is a quarterback. Taggart might want to sign two.
A lot of the predicted doom and gloom depends no only on if Herbert were to get injured by when? If it were to happen later in the season, the Ducks by then might have developed an adequate backup. Although some are saying that Alie is ahead of Burmeister at this point, maybe in two months the freshman would be ready to play solidly within a watered-down game plan.
Justin Roper in 2007 developed nicely over time after Dixon went down and won the Sun Bowl.
But as it stands now, the Ducks' area of greatest need might be to find someone capable of guiding the ship should something happen to its captain.