Justin Herbert stiff-armed the question as to whether he will return for the 2019 season at Oregon or leave for the NFL.
Citing unnamed league sources, CBS Sports reported that Herbert was leaning toward staying in college, even though the Ducks’ junior quarterback is emerging as a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
“I haven’t thought three seconds about it,” Herbert said after Tuesday’s practice. “I haven’t even talked to my parents about it, and it hasn’t crossed my mind at all. I know that coach (Mario) Cristobal and I and the team, we made a decision not to talk about it or think about it.
“I’m not quite sure what was reported, but I haven’t really spent any time on it at all.”
Herbert’s answer was met with skepticism on social media, but his dad smiled when he heard the soundbite.
Mark and Holly Herbert haven’t sat down with Justin to discuss the looming decision at this point. They want their Eugene home to be a football-free zone when the local hero stops by to join them for dinner or to play video games with his brothers Mitchell, a former Montana State wide receiver, and Patrick, a Sheldon High senior tight end verbally committed to Oregon.
“We talk about fishing or the dogs or school,” Mark Herbert said. “We want him to come home because it’s a place to get away from football. If I’m watching football, I turn the TV off.”
The 6-foot-6, 237-pound Herbert, who grew up emulating Marcus Mariota, has completed 61.8 percent of his passes this season for 1,883 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Cristobal and his players agreed not to discuss NFL decisions publicly until after the season. Oregon’s first-year coach noted that the league’s College Advisory Committee will provide underclassmen with information about where they are actually projected in the draft as part of the decision-making process.
“Everyone has a different career path or different goals in mind as it relates to their high school, their college or their potential pro career,” Cristobal said. “So all those factors are taken into account, families are involved, it’s done the right way. Some of it is information, some of it is logical thinking, but there is a process in place.
“I feel with the people in the building we have a really air-tight one that will get the guys the best possible advice we can give them.”
Entering No. 19 Oregon’s game against Arizona on Saturday in Tucson, Herbert has thrown 17 touchdowns and one interception in eight career Pac-12 road games.
Herbert’s top wide receiver, Dillon Mitchell, has been referring to his quarterback as the No. 1 NFL pick throughout the season.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, I know him well,” Mitchell, who has 36 receptions for 510 yards in four conference games this season, said when asked about Herbert possibly wearing an Oregon jersey again next year. “That’s his decision at the end of the day. I know he has a lot of things going for him coming back next year, but that’s a decision that he has to make.
“In my eyes and everybody else’s eyes here, he’s the No. 1 guy.”
Herbert’s offensive coordinator, Marcus Arroyo, understands why John Elway and other NFL executives are flocking to Autzen Stadium this season.
“He’s got a skill set that’s pretty special, pretty rare,” said Arroyo, who was the interim offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014. “Having been there and been through those drafts, he’s got a skill set that’s going to be comparable to as good as anybody.
“But we’re going to cross that bridge when we get there. It’s a totally different game, a totally different time, and I haven’t thought one second about that in talking to him about that situation.”