Oregon spring football practice preview for 2017. The Ducks are heading into a new era under head coach Willie Taggart, and they’re looking to quickly retool and compete in the Pac-12.
The start to the Willie Taggart era in Eugene didn’t get off to the best start. After setting the tone and providing some hope for the future of the program with his introductory press conference, Taggart saw his new team quickly run into some speed bumps.
A conditioning incident resulted in the hospitalization of a few Oregon players, which, in turn, led to a personal quarrel between Taggart and a beat reporter who covers the team. And, in January, now former assistant coach David Reaves made news with his DUI arrest only days after accepting the job on Taggart’s staff.
But the Ducks will look to put all of that behind them now. They have a young roster and a new, energetic head coach.
Here are three storylines to watch as Oregon’s spring football practice starts Wednesday.
Oregon Spring Football Practice Storylines
1. Justin Herbert’s Sophomore Season
No one really expected a true freshman — let alone one rated as a 3-star recruit the year before — to come one as strong as Justin Herbert did for Oregon last season. In nine games, he threw 19 touchdowns to only four interceptions, and he completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,936 yards.
Now, the time has come to look forward to Herbert’s progression as the starting quarterback. He has his top two leading receivers from last season back: Charles Nelson and Darren Carrington II. That is going to play a huge role in Herbert’s maturation and development. If they can pick up where they left off and build on it, the Ducks could be in for a fun ride.
2. Royce Freeman’s Last Ride
Last season was supposed to be a Heisman Trophy run for Royce Freeman, but injuries cut that down very quickly. In 11 games, Freeman took 168 carries for 945 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
The up-and-down season for Freeman led to the emergence of Tony Brooks-James as a weapon in the running game and the passing game. But now it’s Freeman’s last go-around with Oregon, and he’ll be a key player both on the field and in the locker room with a young roster.
3. True Freshman Contributors
Speaking of that young roster, Taggart did an incredible job of closing the 2017 recruiting class. Oregon held on to Jaylon Redd, landed former USC commit Thomas Graham and convinced Deommodore Lenoir to re-join the class. All three could easily see early playing time for the Ducks, and all three project as impact players for Taggart’s squad.
Redd and Lenoir are expected to see reps at wide receiver despite having high upsides as a cornerbacks. But Graham may have the highest ceiling of them all and could quickly develop into a lockdown cornerback for Oregon.
The Ducks’ spring game is set for April 29.