EUGENE, Oregon — This week, Duck head coach Willie Taggart revealed his updated depth chart with the quarterback position split between Justin Herbert OR Braxton Burmeister. Clearly, Herbert is making a major push for an appearance in Seattle.
Taggart has been pleased by the progress of his sophomore quarterback. However, just because he’s getting closer doesn’t mean Oregon’s head coach will rush him back.
“He’s been drinking a lot and he’s getting better,” Taggart said. “We’re going to put Justin out there when we feel he’s ready to go. We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize him.”
Nevertheless, you can’t blame Coach T for playing coy at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
“If he’s ready this week, we’ll play him. If not, then we won’t. We’re going to continue to practice him and let him continue to get better. We’re not going to put him in harms way and allow him to re-injure himself.”
Regardless of the outcome, the fact that Herbert is this far along in his rehabilitation process speaks volumes. It truly illustrates how hard he’s working to get himself back on the field, alongside being a quick healer.
“I don’t know how much milk that’s going to take, but he’s been drinking it and it’s been helping,” Taggart said with a big smile.
As far as the match-up with the No. 12 team in the land, Taggart has respect for the other side and their head coach Chris Petersen.
“I know the feelings when it comes to Oregon and Washington,” UO’s head coach said with a grin. “I’ve heard that from Day 1. I don’t consider this a ‘rivalry game,’ I consider every game a rivalry. We can’t make one game bigger than the other. If we do that, we’ll never get to where we want to go.”
One can appreciate the simplicity of Taggart’s philosophy. You can’t get caught up worrying about getting revenge. The team can only focus on their next game. It’s the right mindset to have as the Ducks look to make 2016 a distant memory.
For this 2017 team, their foundation is predicated around energy and focus. Unfortunately, the third component (discipline) has yet to arrive in the Taggart era, as penalties continue to ravage the squad.
The head coach believes if they play focused, everything else will fall into place over the next month.
“All these games are huge,” Taggart stated. “It’s the next game on the schedule for us. It’s big for us to continue to build our program. We have three games left and we feel if we play well, we can win them all. That won’t happen unless we’re totally focused.”
As far as the Utah performance, the head coach was encouraged by the 347 rushing yards in the run game. Taggart believes if the offense is working in unison, especially the offensive line, the Ducks can run against anyone in the country.
“If we’re playing our best, it could work against anyone. We need to play our best against the University of Washington. They’re a well-coached football team. A team that understands what it takes to win. For us, we have to be at our best with everything we do. If we do that, I like our chances.”
Last week, you may have noticed the local boy Brady Breeze flying around the field. Wearing the No. 25 and lowering the boom on most in his path, the safety is vying for more playing time.
“Brady’s getting better each and every weekend,” UO’s head coach replied. “It was good to see him, especially last week. We really like his physicality. He’s getting comfortable with what we’re asking him to do when he’s playing safety.”
The Lake Oswego native made his name at Central Catholic and could be a star in college, as well. Last week vs Utah, Breeze was clinical with four tackles, a pass deflection and a QB hit. It was his effort through big hits that changed the momentum for the defense.
The sideline erupts every time Breeze makes a play. It’s been happening since the start of fall training camp. His teammates really love him. And as most Oregonians know, he’s a hard-hitting playmaker who will only get better with more time on the field.
“You can tell, when he’s comfortable and understands what he’s doing, he does real well,” Taggart stated. “I think playing on special teams has really helped him. Understanding the speed of the game and getting confidence in himself. Now it’s starting to pay off for us.”
On a sad note, offensive lineman Doug Brenner is out for the year.
“Doug is out for the rest of the season with a hip injury,” replied Oregon’s lead man. “That’s been bothering him for a while, so he had surgery this week on it.”
At the end of the day, we know what week it is. The fans haven’t forgotten what happened last year. The players don’t need any help finding motivation for this contest and that usually benefits the coaching staff. Altogether, everyone is ready for Seattle.
“No, I won’t use it as motivation but maybe our players will,” Taggart stated with a smirk. “I stay focused on us and what we need to do to get better to win the ballgame. I’m sure any competitor out there wouldn’t forget what happened and make sure they’re at the their best when they play that opponent again.”
No matter who is taking snaps for the Ducks on Saturday, Oregon needs to play mistake-free football on offense and force turnovers on defense. Not to mention, UO must eliminate penalties from their system. If this occurs, anything is possible.
The Ducks (5-4, 2-4) head to Seattle to play the No. 12 team (7-1, 4-1) in college football. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m. PT on Saturday from Husky Stadium via FS1.
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