Braxton Burmeister, Tyler Shough split first-team reps in preparation for UCLA
The Ducks returned to the field inside the cozy confines of the Moshofsky Center on a chilly, gray morning in the Willamette Valley.
But the quarterback picture remained mostly cloudy during Tuesday’s practice, which Justin Herbert did not participate in.
Oregon’s starting quarterback, along with No. 1 wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, are in concussion protocol after taking hard hits during the 44-15 loss at Arizona.
Coach Mario Cristobal said he will find out before Wednesday’s practice whether or not the two offensive stars will be cleared to play against Chip Kelly and UCLA on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (4:30 p.m., Fox).
“Last time I talked to him, he was doing well,” tight end Jacob Breeland said when asked how Herbert was doing. “I haven’t really seen him, so I’m not sure.”
Sophomore Braxton Burmeister took the first-team snaps, and true freshman Tyler Shough was with the second team during the portion of practice open to the media.
“They did a good job,” Cristobal said. “Both picked up where they left off, not only in the spring, but in fall camp. We felt like both were coming on strong.”
Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said Burmeister and Shough split the snaps 50-50 and the competition to start will continue throughout the week, if Herbert is ruled out.
“We’ll let the doctors determine how we move forward, but those guys put up good reps today and they’ve got to step up and go to war, and we’re excited about it,” Arroyo said. “There is no call today. We won’t know that until closer to game time.”
Burmeister struggled in relief of Herbert last year, finishing 44-for-77 (57.1 percent) passing for 330 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. The Ducks went 1-4 in his five starts.
In mop-up duty this season, Burmeister is 4-for-8 passing for 27 yards (3.38 yards per attempt). Shough, who took the second-string reps when Burmeister was recovering from a knee injury earlier this season, led a late touchdown drive against Portland State but has not attempted a pass.
None of the quarterbacks were made available for media interviews this week.
“I have all the confidence in them,” freshman running back Travis Dye said of Burmeister and Shough. “I know how much work they’ve been putting in, and they’ve been right next to Justin. We’re ready to roll.”
Oregon’s offense opened the session with two tight ends (Breeland, Ryan Bay), two wide receivers (Johnny Johnson, Brenden Schooler) and Tony Brooks-James at running back.
During last year’s 31-14 loss to the Bruins at the Rose Bowl, Burmeister started while Herbert was recovering from a fractured collarbone. He was 8-for-15 passing for 74 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
“I’m most excited just to get him off injury and get him back out there full speed, get him back in the heart of getting the group going,” Arroyo said. “That’s the biggest part. Being off that long, it’s getting out the kinks.
“But he’s grown a lot, the maturity of him has grown (by leaps and) bounds since last year.”
The Ducks are already without starting left tackle Penei Sewell, who attended practice using a medical scooter to prop up his injured leg. Calvin Throckmorton, who hasn’t allowed a sack in his last 1,943 snaps, continues to fill in at left tackle with Brady Aiello at right tackle.
Right guard Dallas Warmack was practicing after “tweaking” a shoulder injury against the Wildcats.
The injury situation isn’t quite as bleak on defense, where starting inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu was participating. Starting defensive end Austin Faoliu was in uniform but limited during drills.
Wide receiver Tabari Hines and tight end Kano Dillon worked with trainers off to the side as they continue to rehab injuries.
Even with Herbert starting, the Ducks’ offense has struggled the past two weeks as Oregon was outscored 50-8 in the first halves and 79-35 in back-to-back road losses at Washington State and Arizona.
Herbert, who completed 67.5 percent of his passes in 2017, has completed 59.6 percent of his passes this season for 2,069 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.
“We’re a good football team,” Arroyo said. “We’ve got to go out and execute. It’s all about execution. That’s the biggest thing, man, no matter what you're doing.”