Justin Herbert has cleared concussion protocol, but Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal will wait to officially declare him the starting quarterback against UCLA.
Herbert returned to practice with the Ducks on Wednesday after sitting out early in the week while being monitored for concussion symptoms after taking a hard hit in the second half of Saturday’s 44-15 loss at Arizona. Cristobal will continue to monitor how his academic All-American and likely future first-round pick in the NFL draft progresses before sending him out to face the Bruins at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“It was a good day, but we still evaluate every single piece of it,” Cristobal said. “There is always the medical part first, you do it the right way. You do it like it is your own son and make sure the medical part is taken care of. Then after that, you make sure about everything else, how he feels with everything.”
If Herbert does play, it is unclear if he will have his leading receiver because Dillon Mitchell did not practice after being monitored for a possible concussion suffered against Arizona. Cristobal said that Herbert and Mitchell were on different timelines for being evaluated and the coach expected to find out Mitchell’s status later Wednesday.
Oregon’s players and coaches do not have any more media obligations before kickoff against the Bruins.
Herbert went through a stretching period with his teammates during the early portion of practice that was viewed by the media inside the Moshofsky Center. He did not do ball-security drills with the other quarterbacks, but later did some individual work and threw to receivers.
Herbert remained on the sideline when Oregon’s offense took the field with sophomore Braxton Burmeister leading the No. 1 unit and true freshman Tyler Shough with the second group. The Ducks later moved outside to their practice fields.
“All three (quarterbacks) looked good,” Cristobal said. “They all went through practice normally and shared reps, so they did a good job.”
Burmeister and Shough have both seen limited work in two games this season, leaving both with the possibility of getting a redshirt year if they do not play in more than two additional games.
Burmeister made five starts last year while Herbert was out with a fractured collarbone, including a 31-14 loss at UCLA.
The Ducks went 1-4 in the game started by Burmeister, who completed 44-of-77 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions in a total of seven appearances as a true freshman. He also ran for 102 yards and three scores.
Burmeister went 4-for-8 for 27 yards while playing in Oregon’s first two games, but then suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for about one month.
“He’s matured a lot,” Oregon junior guard Shane Lemieux said of Burmeister. “Obviously that is a hard freshman year to have, but he has grown from that. He’s a lot different from last year. When he walks in the room now, people respect him. He says we need to work together, this is us and it needs to be a two-way street.”
Shough entered two games late, but has yet to attempt a pass. Lemieux compared him to true freshmen Penei Sewell and Jevon Holland, who earned starting roles at left tackle and safety, respectively.
“Those are three guys who carry themselves almost like a coach,” Lemieux said. “When (Shough) is talking about offensive schemes, he has the details down so that he can describe it really well.”
Herbert has attempted 92 passes during back-to-back losses against Washington State and Arizona while Oregon has run 47 times for 142 yards.
“No matter who is quarterback, our emphasis this week is on running the ball,” Lemieux said. “Obviously, we have a really good quarterback, but I think our offense relies on the run. Not having that makes us one-dimensional where we have to pass on every play.”
Herbert has completed 155 of 260 passes for 2,069 yards and 20 touchdowns with six interceptions on the season.
Mitchell has been on the receiving end of nearly one-third of Herbert’s completions with 48 catches for 677 yards and four touchdowns. That’s twice as many receptions and yards as any other Oregon receiver as Jaylon Redd ranks second on the team with 22 catches for 271 yards.
Cristobal mentioned freshman Daewood Davis, who has one catch for 13 yards, and sophomore Justin Collins as candidates to get more playing time if Mitchell can’t go against the Bruins.