EUGENE, Oregon — Entering fall camp, quarterback depth was a question of concern for Oregon football. After a week of practicing in white, freshman quarterback Demetri Burch was awarded the red jersey by head coach Willie Taggart.
As of the 2017 Spring Game, Oregon had six quarterbacks on their roster. By the time summer began, it was four as Terry Wilson and Travis Jonsen transferred.
With freshmen practices and an illness to senior Taylor Alie last week, the Ducks had just two quarterbacks on the field at one point. Sophomore Justin Herbert and freshman Braxton Burmeister shared reps from the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
Alongside those three options, the Ducks have freshman Mike Irwin from Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego. The depth of the position is concerning. After Herbert, you’re looking at another season with a freshman as the primary back-up.
Head coach Willie Taggart addressed the issue this week, should an injury arise:
We don’t think about injuries, we don’t worry about injuries. Those things happen when they’re going to happen. Those are things we can’t control. If we worry about that, that’s when we’ll handcuff ourselves. Those things happen and if it happens, it’s the next guy up. All we think about now is just developing guys at the position. But, we’re not concerned with injuries. They happen and we can’t control it. We got some tough guys, so we’ll be okay.
The coach felt it was necessary to add some insurance, however. The No. 14 Burch was working alongside the quarterbacks all week. However, the freshman athlete from Apopka was not wearing the red jersey that usually accompanies the position.
When the team took the field on Saturday, Burch was finally wearing his red jersey. It’s official. He’s not just filling a position either, he has a chance to succeed down the road.
In his new threads, Burch scampered to the end zone for a touchdown in the Duck scrimmage on Day 6. The defense was once again the storyline, but Burch stood out for the offense.
The 6-foot athlete played everywhere offensively during his prolific high school career. He excelled at wide receiver, running back and quarterback. Not to mention, he was on board with Taggart and his staff from the start at South Florida.
Burch was the 65th-best athlete in the country (247sports) and No. 27 overall wide receiver product in his state according to scout.com. At running back alone, he amassed over 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a junior.
Following his senior year, Taggart left USF for Oregon and Burch had to scramble. He didn’t take long to realize his future was in the hands of Willie Taggart. On National Signing Day, Burch changed his course and went northwest to rejoin Coach T in Eugene.
Some scouts compare Burch to current South Florida quarterback Quinton “Winky” Flowers. If Burch is half the talent of Flowers, Oregon has a special player on their roster. Many witnessed Taggart take Flowers to the next level the last three years.
The 6-foot Florida native compares favorably to the Duck freshman. Flowers has been incredible during his collegiate journey. USF’s QB accumulated 5,213 passing yards, alongside 46 TD and 17 INT in three years. Flowers also has 2,594 rushing yards and 30 TD’s on the ground.
After watching Taggart work his magic the last few months, most don’t question his methods. Burch has game-changing athletic ability but needs time to learn the system. His experience can only be improved with live training in games.
It may take some time, but Burch will be fun to watch. If that time comes before he’s ready, DB has the ability to win games with his legs.
The depth at QB has grown by one over the last seven days. By the time the season starts, let’s hope the Ducks only need one. Given the right amount of time, Oregon has some serious upside with Burch.