The NFL Draft evaluations for underclassmen are in and at least one Oregon player has made a decision on his future.
“I’m coming back,” said junior offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton, who has earned his degree from Oregon and will soon begin applying to medical schools. “It is something that felt right to me. I’m excited about the group we will have next year.”
Oregon’s starting quarterback for next season remains in question while Justin Herbert continues to ponder his future after receiving an NFL evaluation that likely targeted him as a first-round selection.
“I still haven’t thought about it,” Herbert said on Thursday. “We’ll find out. I am kind of focused on this year. We have got a big bowl game coming up and that deserves all the attention for now. I’ll think about that when the time is right.”
Oregon (8-4) has shifted the focus of practice this week toward Michigan State (7-5) in preparation for the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Spartans will be without junior cornerback Justin Layne, who announced he will skip the bowl game after declaring for the NFL Draft.
No Ducks have indicated that they will miss the bowl game or declare for the draft, but Oregon did seek an evaluation from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee for a few players.
Offensive guard Shane Lemieux said he got an evaluation, but has yet to finalize a decision for next year. UO coach Mario Cristobal indicated that Dillon Mitchell and Troy Dye would also get evaluations, but neither player was made available for an interview this week.
The Ducks are certain to have a Herbert on the roster next season after Justin’s brother, Patrick, signed a letter of intent on Wednesday. The 6-foot-6, 233-pound tight end from Sheldon followed through on the verbal commitment he made to Oregon in May.
“That was pretty automatic,” Justin Herbert said. “He knew where he wanted to go and I was proud of him for that.”
While Oregon is slated to return Braxton Burmeister and Tyler Shough at quarterback next season, the latest candidate to replace Herbert whether he leaves early for the NFL Draft or stays another year is Cale Millen, the lone quarterback that Oregon signed this year. Millen was part of a large group of recruits who were on campus last weekend.
“I got to talk to him a little bit,” Herbert said. “He is a special kid and smart so it was fun to get to know him. He became friends with my younger brother and they talked on visits, so I am excited for him to be here.”
Oregon decided months ago to target Millen as its quarterback in the 2019 class. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder threw for 3,807 yards and 51 touchdowns as a senior at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash.
“There were a whole bunch of traits that he’s got, first of all off the field,” UO offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “He’s got great DNA, he is great in the classroom and loves football. He is a hard worker with a lot of attention to detail in the things he does. We talked to a lot of people up there and then when you turn on the tape, you see someone who has done a bunch of nice things in the way he plays football. He takes care of the football and has a high completion percentage. The way his body is built, he will be a longer, rangier guy. He is deceptively athletic, has a 40-inch vertical and the ability to move around. He is a football junkie who loves to compete. I think that is a critical component.”
Arroyo said the Ducks scouted the three-star quarterback under several different situations.
“We took a lot of time evaluating that position,” he said. “There is a checklist of components. You have to see him live and and see him in inclement weather. See him against a great opponent, see him playing ahead, playing behind, see him in 7-on-7 and you’d like to see him in other sports. All of that helps you build a better resume for what you are getting than flipping on the rankings and saying you want the top guy.”
Oregon had its highest-rated recruiting class in history headlined by defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the No. 1 prospect in the nation according to ESPN. The Ducks also signed four wide receivers for Herbert to work with if he returns for his senior year.
"You kind of hear about (recruiting) through the grapevine," Herbert said. "It is not something we focus on too much. We're not real worried about recruiting. It is special because those are the next guys in line. To have guys like that coming in is huge. I never would have thought that Eugene would bring in the nation's No. 1 recruit."