An impressive collection of quarterback talent will be gathered for Oregon’s spring game Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

Pro Football Hall of Fame member Dan Fouts, former NFL first-round pick Chris Miller and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota are among the notable alumni returning for the festivities.

D.J. Uiagalelei, a five-star prospect from Bellflower, Calif., headlines the large contingent of 2020 blue-chip recruits scheduled to attend the game.

The star of the show, of course, is four-year starter Justin Herbert, who put a lucrative professional career on hold to return for his senior season.

But the quarterback fans want to see back up some of the spring hype during this public showcase is redshirt freshman Tyler Shough, who coaches and players have been raving about.

“Tyler has taken a significant step. I say that emphatically because of what we have seen,” coach Mario Cristobal said. “Sometimes when the twos or ones get banged up, he’s working behind the three O-line, and you’ve got some pretty good pass rushers on this team. He’s making things happen, he’s negotiating throws and being creative and extending plays with his feet as well. …

“We expect him to command the second offense just like we expect the first quarterback to command our first offense.”

 

The No. 2 quarterback position has been an issue for the program since 2015 when the Ducks played like a College Football Playoff contender with a healthy Vernon Adams Jr. and couldn’t hold a 31-point lead in the Alamo Bowl without him.

Braxton Burmeister, who struggled in relief of Herbert during the up and down 2017 campaign, has transferred to Virginia Tech. The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster, true freshman Cale Millen, was slowed by injury at the start of spring practice and is still getting up to speed with the offense.

“This past redshirt season I’ve learned a lot from (Herbert) and all the guys,” Shough said. “This whole offseason I’ve tried to get more chemistry with the guys. I feel a lot more comfortable out there. It’s just kind of reacting and executing the plays now.”

The wide receivers catching passes from Herbert and Shough will also be in the public spotlight as the auditions to replace Dillon Mitchell’s production continue.

Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson and true freshmen Mycah Pittman and Josh Delgado are pushing returning starters Johnny Johnson, Brenden Schooler and Jaylon Redd.

“It’s been an adjustment, to be honest with you, coming from Penn State,” said Juwan Johnson, a 6-4, 230-pound senior. “Coming here to Oregon has been a huge adjustment with the tempo, speed, with people, the weather. It’s been a lot. I’ve been pretty excited to be here, I’ve been welcomed in by a family.”

Oregon returns all five starters on the offensive line, although Calvin Throckmorton is still recovering from a serious leg injury suffered during the win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl.

Running backs CJ Verdell, Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio are all back after combining for 1,793 yards and 21 touchdowns as freshmen. Darrian Felix, who Cristobal said was having a solid spring, is not expected to participate in Saturday’s scrimmage due to the flu.

“(Pass) protection has gone through the roof,” Cristobal said on the improvement the productive group has made since last season’s 9-4 finish. “These guys now hunt people up.”

Cristobal parted company with Jim Leavitt after the season, which ended with a solid defensive performance in Oregon’s 7-6 win over Michigan State.

Andy Avalos, whose Boise State unit harassed Herbert during the stinging Las Vegas Bowl loss to end the 2017 season, is the new defensive coordinator.

“I’d say the most surprising thing is his constant energy,” starting safety Jevon Holland said of Avalos. “I didn’t think someone could be that positive that long. He continues to reinforce his positivity on the team.”

The Ducks return seven starters on defense, including nose tackle Jordon Scott and inside linebacker Troy Dye.

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux, ranked by ESPN as the top recruit in the 2019 class, will be in the spotlight at defensive end with starter Gary Baker sitting out this spring. La’Mar Winston is the top candidate to play Avalos’ “Stud” position.

Isaac Slade-Matautia is the likely starter at inside linebacker opposite Troy Dye after impressing his new position coach during the 14 practice leading into the spring game.

“Isaac certainly has been one of the great surprises for me coming in here,” said linebackers coach Ken Wilson, who was hired away from Washington State to replace Cort Dennison (now at Louisville). “I had recruited him a little bit out of high school. He is probably the most improved of those guys over the practices we’ve had.”

Oregon isn’t expected to reveal much with its offensive or defensive schemes. Auburn’s coaches will likely be watching, assuming they can find a way to get the Pac-12 Networks.

The Ducks still want to put on a good show for alumni, recruits and the fans in attendance.

“The spring game can never be something that is taken lightly. It can’t be something that is kind of a dress rehearsal,” Cristobal said. “It’s an extra day of work. It’s a 15th practice that the NCAA grants us and we will use it.”