Justin Herbert is getting the band back together piece by piece.
Starting center Jake Hanson is “full go” this week after missing the Stanford game with an undisclosed injury.
True freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman returned to practice wearing a red non-contact jersey, and Brenden Schooler is expected back on the field Thursday.
No. 13 Oregon, which has an open date this weekend, is expected to have its healthiest roster since the first week of fall camp when No. 15 California visits Oct. 5 for a key Pac-12 North Division game at Autzen Stadium (5 p.m., Fox).
Despite the recent reshuffling on the offensive line and the absence of a trio of talented targets, Herbert has completed 74.4% of his passes this season for 1,127 yards with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Ducks (3-1, 1-0) are 22nd in passing yards (304.0 per game) and 27th in scoring offense (38.5 ppg).
“The guys that we lost, they’re legitimate, not only intermediate threats, quick-game threats. They’re guys that can stretch the field,” coach Mario Cristobal said of the early attrition at receiver during his Wednesday news conference. “We certainly look forward to having those guys back. When you have guys like that back, you feel like you can enhance a lot of the things that you do.”
Backup running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio (back spasms) is excepted to be cleared to play soon.
It is still unclear when projected starting receiver Juwan Johnson will be back practicing with the team. The Penn State graduate transfer remains out with a calf injury suffered before the opener against Auburn.
Cristobal is trying not to tease fans anymore by updating the gifted 6-foot-4, 231-pound Johnson’s status as day-to-day.
“I wish I could just find a better phrase or word to describe when you have an injury like that, a soft-tissue injury, how it can kind of linger,” Cristobal said. “There is no setback; it has not worsened. It’s just not quite there.
“We feel optimistic about it being ready in the near future, but because it’s taken as long as it has, we’ll keep saying day-by-day and keep everybody posted. That way there won’t be any surprises one way or the other.”
With Johnson, Pittman (shoulder) and Schooler (foot) out of the lineup for the first four games, Herbert reconnected with junior wide receivers Johnny Johnson (22 receptions, two touchdowns) and Jaylon Redd (17 receptions, three touchdowns), who played in Dillon Mitchell’s shadow last season.
Tight end Jacob Breeland is off to a spectacular start in the passing game with a team-high 265 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Bryan Addison has also regained Herbert’s trust after dropping a touchdown pass against Auburn. The redshirt freshman has eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.
“He's bounced back,” Herbert said. “He's such a tough kid and he makes plays all day in practice, so I've never been surprised by his performances. He's always been the guy that makes plays, so it's fun to watch.”
Oregon’s offensive line allowed four sacks and two quarterback hurries during the 21-6 win at Stanford. CJ Verdell averaged only 3.4 yards per carry.
The return of Hanson, which allows Calvin Throckmorton to move back to right tackle, should help the chemistry of the starters up front.
The Ducks are 75th in the FBS in rushing yards, averaging 154.8 per game.
“We’re off,” Cristobal said of the rushing attack. “We’re out of sync a little bit. It starts with making sure that we’re all on the same page so that’s not an issue.”
Cristobal said the main objective this week is to “heal up” and develop a group of 44-to-54 players to rely on in conference games.
“We’re not at that number count yet,” Cristobal said. “We have to learn to play with better pad level, use our hands better, dig our feet in the ground, understand hat position, hand position, angles, running to the football, finishing with effort and being in the best football condition and shape that we can be.”
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