Freshman tight end from Sheldon hopes to get on the field with older brother Justin Herbert this season

Developing and identifying reliable targets for Justin Herbert to throw the ball to has been one of the focal points of Oregon’s fall camp.

Juwan Johnson, the tall and brawny Penn State graduate transfer, is expected to have a significant impact with the Ducks during his senior season. Redshirt freshman Bryan Addison and true freshman Mycah Pittman have been receiving preseason praise from coaches and peers.

Returning starters Johnny Johnson and Jaylon Redd seem to be elevating their play in an effort to help replace Dillon Mitchell’s production. Brenden Schooler, who will miss the first month of the season with a foot injury, is still trying to lead the group from the sideline.

But no player on the roster has better natural chemistry with Oregon’s star quarterback than a true freshman tight end from Sheldon High.

“I think we've been playing in the front yard since, I can’t even remember, 5, 6 years old,” Patrick Herbert said of arriving at Oregon with the experience of a lifetime of practice reps with his older brother. “He was always my quarterback, him and my oldest brother (Mitch).

“It’s definitely really fun to see how things have changed from the front yard, now to Autzen Stadium.”

 

There is still a lot of work for Patrick to do in order for a Herbert-to-Herbert connection to become a reality.

For starters, the Ducks return three veteran tight ends — seniors Jacob Breeland and Ryan Bay and junior Cam McCormick — who have earned their spots atop the depth chart by proving themselves as run blockers and pass protectors, not just pass catchers.

Patrick Herbert isn’t even the Oregon tight end with the most famous older brother. That would be senior walk-on Matt Mariota.

“I definitely think blocking, knowing what I'm doing with my blocking,” Patrick Herbert said when asked what he needs to improve to get on the field for games in 2019. “And then just little details like route technique and that kind of stuff. …

“We're just kind of focused on fall camp right now and getting through the next practice tomorrow and recovering today.”

During the Pac-12 media day event last month in Los Angeles, Justin Herbert said he has thought about what it would be like to complete a pass to Patrick at Autzen, where the brothers attended countless games as wide-eyed kids with their family.

“It would be really cool,” Justin Herbert said. “That’s not something I’ve done since high school. So yeah, I know my parents would really appreciate it and they would love to be there for it.”

Ryan Walk, who played with both Herbert brothers at Sheldon, said watching Justin’s rise has been “a little surreal.” The sophomore center won’t be surprised if Patrick also becomes a household name by the end of his career.

“That talent is already showing up,” Walk said. “All the Herberts are really bright guys; Pat's just another example of it. He's picking up the offense really well. Tight end is a tough position, because you have to learn the run game and the pass game.

“He's coming along really well. I'm super happy for him and it's cool having him out here.”

Justin Herbert was thrown into the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2016, despite playing baseball at Sheldon the previous spring while Dakota Prukop, Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson got a head start on the competition for the job.

Patrick Herbert enrolled early at UO and participated in spring practice to get a jump on the learning process.

“At the beginning of spring, I was swimming,” Patrick Herbert said. “I felt like I did a lot better this time around.”

Breeland and McCormick were both held out of Wednesday’s practice, which provided some extra reps for the other six tight ends on the roster.

During a basic drill in the red zone, converted defensive tackle Hunter Kampmoyer dropped a pass and redshirt freshman Spencer Webb didn’t get out of his break to look for the ball until Justin Herbert’s pass had already sailed out of the back of the end zone.

Patrick Herbert caught the projected NFL franchise quarterback’s next offering in perfect stride.

“His brother’s lucky that he's a senior. He might be in the shadow of Patrick in due time,” coach Mario Cristobal said with a smile at the start of camp. “Patrick's a great football player. … He’s got all the tools you want from an inline tight end and off-the-ball tight end.”

The Herbert brothers — Justin is 6-foot-6 and Patrick is 6-5 — recently pulled off a victory on the basketball court over the 6-4 Johnson and NCAA triple-double queen Sabrina Ionescu.

“I think it's the brother connection,” Patrick Herbert said. “The amount of games we’ve played in the driveway, in the front yard and everything. We knew what move they were going to do before they even knew. So I think it was pretty nice.”

Now perhaps it’s time for the on-court chemistry to move to the new turf at Autzen.