Herbert is a projected first-round pick, and Mitchell leads the Pac-12 in receiving
Oregon is preparing senior night at Autzen Stadium.
There is also a chance some of the Ducks’ dynamic juniors could be playing their final home game against Arizona State on Saturday.
The expectations for the 2019 season will be greatly impacted by whether quarterback Justin Herbert returns or enters the NFL draft.
Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell and linebacker Troy Dye are also having extremely productive seasons.
“I don’t think anybody has made any decision on anything yet,” said Mitchell, the first player in Oregon history with six or more receptions in seven consecutive games. “But I know we’re a close group of guys, so we’ll probably end up making the decision together.”
Herbert, a projected first-round pick, recently said he hasn’t thought “three seconds” about the looming business decision.
Denver Broncos general manager/president John Elway, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and Miami Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannebaum are among the NFL executives who have attended Oregon games this season to see the 6-foot-6, 237-pound prospect up close and personal.
Coach Mario Cristobal and his star players made an agreement not to discuss any NFL plans publicly until after the season.
“It’s not a matter of ignoring, it’s a matter of focusing,” Cristobal said after Wednesday’s practice. “What are you focusing on? Right now you’re playing college football. We’re coaching college football. And anything that deters from that, what value does it have?
“Really nothing, except maybe hurting you, losing your sights on what you need to accomplish.”
Mitchell, the Pac-12’s leading receiver, said the talented trio from the 2016 recruiting class will lean on each other during the process, and whatever path Herbert chooses will influence his decision.
“Yeah, I definitely would say that,” Mitchell said. “Him and Troy Dye.”
Herbert has passed for 2,621 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. An amazing 33.2 percent of his completions have been to Mitchell for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns.
“It definitely doesn’t hurt me,” Mitchell said of being so productive in front of the NFL scouts showing up to see Herbert. “I definitely would put myself right up there with working hard. When they come see him, all of the receivers are giving our best effort. I mean, at the end of the day, if that’s your goal, you have to give it your best.”
Dye, who returned to practice Wednesday after working with the training staff during Tuesday’s session, will make his 31st consecutive start Saturday. He leads the team and is sixth in the Pac-12 with 89 tackles.
“There’s still room for improvement that I have to make at the point of attack. I’ve got to use my hands a little bit better,” Dye said of his development over the last two seasons under defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. “But I think schematically I’ve done a great job picking up his scheme. There’s still a lot of stuff that I don’t know because he hasn’t implemented it. He’s doing a great job, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can. It’s a complex defense.”
Dye led the Ducks in tackles as a true freshman in 2016 and again in 2017. He has 16 career double-digit tackles games, including a five-game streak this season, and has led the Ducks in tackles in 18 of his 34 career games.
Cristobal has noted that the NFL’s College Advisory Committee will provide his underclassmen with information about where they are actually projected in the draft after the season, which will be an important part of the decision-making process.
Herbert is the only current Oregon player being forecast as a first-round selection.
“I haven’t even talked to my parents about it, and it hasn’t crossed my mind at all,” Herbert said last month when asked about a CBS Sports report that he was leaning toward returning to the Ducks. “I know that coach Cristobal and I and the team, we made a decision not to talk about it or think about it.”
The pregame spotlight will shine on the 13 seniors putting on Oregon uniforms for the final time Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
“The biggest thing that has been on my mind is senior night. For the guys that have been here four or five years, this is a big night for them,” Dye said. “I’m going to go out there and leave it all on the line for those guys, because at the end of the day, I do have another year to come back and play. I’m not worried anything about that right now, to be honest with you, I’m just focused on sending these seniors out the right way to go out.
“They came in on such a high note, so let’s send them out on a high note. It’s a big thing for me and I’m going to go out there and do my best to provide a quality game.”