Justin Herbert was the star of Oregon’s scrimmage on Saturday in Portland.

But the starting quarterback made most of his big throws against the Ducks’ second-team defense.

Mario Cristobal was equally pleased with the way defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt’s first-string unit performed, which had a lot to do with backup quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister and Tyler Shough’s combining to complete only 8-of-18 passes for 79 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

Nose guard Jordon Scott, defensive end Jalen Jelks and outside linebacker Justin Hollins were among the players singled out by the coach for performing at a high level during the 88-play situational practice at Franklin High.

“Really disruptive guys who can get to the quarterback and are doing a much better job of playing the run,” Cristobal said. “Overall, the front seven looked like we’ve made tremendous progress.”

Junior linebacker Troy Dye has led the Ducks in tackles the past two seasons. The other inside linebacker spot features perhaps the best spring competition, with redshirt freshman Isaac Slade-Matautia, redshirt sophomore Keith Simms and senior Kaulana Apelu all playing well.

“We all know how good of a player Troy Dye is, but I think Isaac Slade really pops in the scrimmage,” Cristobal said. “So did Keith Simms and Lana. It’s great to have Lana healthy and flying around out there.”

Simms missed the 2017 season while recovering from a knee injury. Apelu, a former walk-on, started opposite Dye for five games before suffering a season-ending leg injury.

Cristobal has also been pleased with the energy outside linebacker La’Mar Winston brings to practice and with the emergence of Ugochukwu Amadi and Brady Breeze at safety.

Amadi seems to have found a permanent home after moving from cornerback, and Breeze is healthy after being slowed by injuries coming out of fall camp the last two years.

“Ugo had a really good scrimmage as well, which I think was important for all of us to see,” Cristobal said. “La’Mar Winston, what can you say, the guy’s engine is always dialed up. He doesn’t have a governor. He just hits start, hits go, and he goes. …

“Brady has a knack for finding the football and found himself another interception. He’s had one every single practice so far in the spring.”

Herbert completed 11-of-16 passes for 213 yards and three touchdown passes.

Oregon has a lack of depth at wide receiver with Darrian McNeal leaving the program this spring and true freshman Jalen Hall returning home for “personal reasons” after only one practice with the team.

But as long as Dillon Mitchell, Johnny Johnson, Brenden Schooler and Jaylon Redd stay healthy, the passing game should be productive.

“For as little as we’ve been together as a whole unit, I think we did some good stuff,” Herbert said. “Definitely some stuff we can clean up, but I thought it was a productive scrimmage and I like the way things are going.”

Johnson had three receptions for 95 yards, Schooler had three receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns, and Redd added five receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown.

“I think it was a great day for the offense, we was rolling,” Johnson said. “It was a great start for us, and I think we’re getting everything together.”

Fifth-year senior Tony Brooks-James and true freshman Travis Dye received the bulk of the carries. With sophomore Darrian Felix and true freshman CJ Verdell “a little bit banged up,” versatile senior Taj Griffin caught Cristobal’s eye at running back.

“Taj Griffin is explosive. When he has the ball in his hands he’s magic,” Cristobal said. “He can make some things happen out of nothing. I think it gets lost also that he’s a small guy but he runs hard. He’ll put his head down and runs some people over. He was really good.”

Cristobal, who still oversees the offensive line, also said left guard Shane Lemieux and center Calvin Throckmorton have been impressive throughout the spring. Starting center Jake Hanson has been doing some drill work but is still limited while recovering from an injury.

“Shane Lemieux continues to be the physical force up front,” Cristobal said. “Another year in the weight room, you can tell his body is continuing to change. His threshold for work is mind boggling. He’s a really impressive offensive lineman.

“Calvin Throckmorton, he’s shown his versatility by jumping in there at center and has given us a lot and a tremendous option in the absence of Jake Hanson.”

The two areas of concern after the scrimmage are ball security and penalties. Oregon returned to practice on Tuesday inside the Moshofsky Center.

The Ducks have five more practices before the April 21 spring game at Autzen Stadium (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @rgduckfootball. Email ryan.thorburn@registerguard.com.