When quarterback Justin Herbert decided to return for his senior year, it gave the Oregon Ducks football program an opportunity to be an elite team in the 2019-20 season.
Without Herbert, the Ducks would be another mid-dweller in the Pac-12 and probably end up playing in some bowl called the “Zipline Express Free Taco Bowl.”
This season could be the first year in a long time where Oregon has a real opportunity to make some noise around the college football landscape. This column is going to examine how good the senior QB really is and what impact he can have on the field this year.
Herbert has the physical traits to be an NFL quarterback. The man stands a stoic 6’6” and weights 234 pounds. This frame alone makes him a weapon against all pac-12 opponents. He will able to shake off smaller defenders and gain extra yards when needed. Furthermore, his size will allow him to see over the offensive line which will create easier throws for him across the middle of the field.
Along with his size, he has the ability to create substantial runs from the pocket. He has a nice burst of speed for a man his stature. He is no Cam Newton, but he will be something that defensive coordinators need to plan against. His ability to keep defenders off balance will open up the opportunity for big plays down the field.
Speaking of big plays, this man has a rocket arm. When his feet are set, he has the ability to make every throw on the football field. He can fit balls into tight windows, drop passes over the head of linebackers, and throw bullets in front of safeties. This ability to make deep passes will limit the type of zone defenses that opposing teams will run against him.
All of his combined physical attributes make him the best Pac-12 quarterback on paper. There are very few college players that possess the same traits that he has. Furthermore, he could be a potential Heisman finalist this year if he plays well in big games. (Wow that was a blanket statement.)
But seriously, sometimes it’s that simple. He is already generating potential Heisman buzz in the offseason.
All in all, he has the traits to become a legendary Pac-12 quarterback. In my opinion, he hasn’t lived up to his potential thus far, but that can all change with a memorable senior campaign. If he plays well, he can line himself up to be the first quarterback selected in the 2020 draft. One scout compared him to former Texas A&M Quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
From a physical standpoint, it is good to be compared to Tannehill. There are some bad associations that can be made in relation to the former Aggie.
Most notably, Tannehill was always labeled as an unfinished product coming out of college. There is some truth to this as he has had a somewhat unmemorable NFL career. The same thing can be said about Herbert’s tenure at Oregon.
When looking at multiple NFL draft analysis, there are a few consistent knocks on the Oregon Senior. I will do my best to cut out the complicated football jargon and simply relay the analysis.
One area where he’s struggled is against pressure. He can not make consistently good throws when defenders are chasing after him. Instead, he seems to panic and throws the ball into tight windows increasing the chances of a turnover. Throws like these can be the difference between a win and a loss when playing good opponents.
What he needs to do to improve this skill is to make better adjustments at the line of scrimmage. If he can pick up blitzers before the snap, he can buy himself the extra second needed to make a crisp pass.
This all comes down to time spent in the film room. If he constantly studies film in the offseason, this should not be an issue heading into his senior campaign. However, if he doesn’t put in the extra hours this will hurt the Oregon Ducks season—and his draft stock alike.
The second area where he needs to improve is not staring down one receiver. In NFL jargon, they call this something along the lines of a one-read QB. When he only looks for one player, this hurts the entire team in multiple ways.
The obvious reason is that it limits the team’s opportunities to make big plays. If you are slow to pick up on a wide-open player down the field…do I really need to explain this further?
Furthermore, from a psychological standpoint, other receivers aren’t going to play as hard if they don’t think they are actually going to get the ball. This translates into dropped passes, sub-par route running, and missed blocks.
He can improve this aspect of his game by—you guessed it—watching film! He can also spend extra time this summer throwing balls to his second string wide-outs to develop cohesion.
This is a huge area of improvement that he needs to hone in on for his Senior campaign.
He Loves The University of Oregon
One key factor that I think may lead to a great season for the Ducks is how much he likes the actual school. He is a hometown kid who is grateful for his opportunity to shine in the college football platform.
“The University of Oregon has been a special place for me as long as I can remember, words will never be able to express my feelings of gratitude toward the people that have built and maintain our program,” said Herbert.
When a person has respect and admiration for the place they represent, it makes it that much easier to work harder. I believe that this will be the driving reason why he has an amazing senior year. He could have been a first-round pick in the NFL Draft last year, but he chose to come back. This says a lot about his character.
So What Does This All Mean?
The Ducks return many key pieces from last years roster. They return nine offensive starters in addition to Herbert. Oregon also returns eight defensive starters, not including talented recruits who have yet to hit the field. They have all the pieces to make the CFB, but it will come down to a few key matchups.
They open the season on a neutral field (cough cough…road game) against Auburn in Arlington, Texas. This will be an immediate test out of the gate, and it could be a huge predictor of what type of team the Ducks really have this year.
Once Pac-12 play hits, they have four key road matchups against Stanford, Washington, USC, and ASU.
I personally believe that they can win four out of the five aforementioned games. If they do this and run the table in the rest of their matchups, they could make the CFB Playoffs.
But really it all falls down on the shoulders of Herbert (and the hair). If he comes to play, the Ducks could have a season reminiscent of the Chip Kelly era.
If he doesn’t, Oregon will be playing in the El Dorado Sun-kissed Spaghetti Bowl.