A Recruiting Diamond in Oregon’s Backyard: Justin Herbert

The Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, has made a number of correct predictions about the Oregon football team and many of their players in our “Skull Sessions” at the FishDuck.com ManCave.

It was he, who in June, explained the special skills of Vernon Adams that I wrote about this summer and we now see and analyze. The coach was talking about the following recruiting diamond long before the other sites were, and I’m delighted to pass along his article for our benefit.  Charles Fischer

From the Coach …

Some background history is necessary to help explain my recent joy:

After many years of high school football coaching in Southern California, I retired in 1992 and moved to the Eugene/Springfield area. I now had the time to become a Duck fan, and I also tried to follow Oregon high school football. The high school coaching at that time was pretty poor.

But that all changed when I discovered coach Marty Johnson at Sheldon HS. He was brilliantly ahead of his time with his spread offense.

One of the first Oregon high school players to really impress me was Sheldon’s QB, Alex Brink. Even as a sophomore, in 2001, I could tell Alex was truly “special.” I enthusiastically watched Alex’s ability grow with each game.

As a starting QB, he ended up 35-3, with a state championship. Now, I really wanted the Ducks to make him their QB of the future. Surely, Mike Bellotti saw the same outstanding ability in Brink as I did.

But it wasn’t to be.

It was unbelievable to me. “Not physically developed enough” was Bellotti’s stated reason for not offering Brink a scholarship. Instead the Ducks selected Johnny DuRocher and Brady Leaf. Ugh, what a bummer.

As most of you remember, Brink wound up at Washington State, where he broke almost all of their passing records, and was an all-Pac-10 QB. During his senior year, 2007, Bellotti was quoted as saying “Alex Brink is the top offensive threat in our conference.”

I guess he “physically developed.”  DuRocher and Leaf?  Not much development.

In 2007, another great Sheldon QB emerged — Jordy Johnson, the coach’s son. Wow, what an exciting football player.

Not only was he a gifted passer, Johnson was the best running back I’d seen in Oregon high school football. And he was also a hard-hitting corner. Sheldon again dominated during Jordy’s three years. What fun it was to watch him compete.

But now I had no hope of the Ducks offering Johnson a scholarship. “He’s too short” (5’11”) or “Doesn’t have enough arm strength.” All the standard cliches.

As a high school coach, I was often miffed at college coaches’ choices of who would receive scholarship offers. Unlike Brink, I can’t say for sure Johnson would have been successful at Oregon. But I still wish he’d had the chance.

Johnson went on to have a “very good” career at Montana.

The next interesting Sheldon QB was Taylor Alie, in 2012. Only a one-year starter, and kinda awful in his first game, Alie got significantly better each week. He eventually led Sheldon to another state championship, and was the state’s MVP.

But, at 5’10”, I never imagined Alie playing for the Ducks. He wasn’t nearly as good as Johnson. Most of you know the rest of the Taylor Alie story — as it stands now.

Which brings me to last year, 2014. Sheldon had a new junior QB starter, Justin Herbert.

Herbert runs the Zone Read!

From Video

Herbert runs the Zone Read!

Wow! He had it all: 6’5″, well built, great arm and passing technique, and the fastest guy on the team (according to those in the know). It was like watching Marcus Mariota play in high school. But, again, there appeared to be no interest on the Ducks’ part.

And then, in his third game, Herbert broke his leg. Sheldon moved WR Kellen Strahm to QB, and he led them to another state championship. Strahm was the state MVP. But everyone knew Herbert was the best football player on that team.

So, instead of starting his senior year as the returning state MVP, Herbert only had a brief resume (2 games) and a missed season due to injury to show college coaches. You’d think he’d go to all the football camps for exposure, but Sheldon kids never seemed to do that.

Also, coming from Sheldon works against kids.

“They’re so well-coached, they’re as good as they’re gonna get.” ”Anybody can look good at QB for Sheldon.” The dreaded “system QB” label. The best QB in Oregon high school history would end up not playing for the University of Oregon, even though that had been his dream since childhood.

But, uh oh, something happened. Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost suddenly took an interest in Herbert. But the Ducks already had a 2016 QB commit (Seth Green), and another on the way (Terry Wilson).

They’ll surely not have room for Herbert — except as a walk-on, and he’s way too good to do that.

Okay, I know with most of you, there’s no surprise ending. Herbert will be an Oregon Duck scholarship QB in 2016. I’m so excited for him. It’s a seemingly impossible dream come true for Herbert and his supporters.

And you Duck fans who haven’t seen him yet, get ready for a very special QB. You’ll be very glad the Ducks found Justin Herbert.

Top Photo from Video

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Coach Morris

Coach Morris

Coach Mike Morris spent 30 years coaching at seven different high schools throughout Southern California. He coached many players who went on to Pac-12 programs including Oregon, such as Saladin McCullough. He is a writer, Football analyst and a good friend of the Principal of the site.

  • ChocoThunder

    It IS okay for the Ducks to pass on QBs that have good careers elsewhere.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Coach I too was excited when I saw Oregon finally reach out to this kid who’s got potential to be real good. The other part is he is a competitor as who will Oregon get. I believe he’s the next great QB at Oregon and no disrespect to The NEBRASKA former QB now gone green, I believe Herbert has too much upside not to excel in this offense. I’m excited about next year and I feel his strongest competition will be another youngster with lots of upside in Travis Jonsen. To much talent on the offensive side not to have a real good option at the QB position. Thanks Coach always love to read your articles.

  • BigBallzChipper

    Coach I to am glad we picked up this local product. He looks great throwing, and his wheels are pretty good also. Between the three QBs we have I hope one of them pans out. Also can someone please explain Frost’s play calling it justs seems that through the course of the game he becomes stale, or much more predictable. Why is that? Or is it just me? I saw it in the 4th quarter against the cougs and the Fuskies.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    between the 3 QBs oregon has recruited this cycle i think herbert is at the bottom of the list but an interesting prospect to be sure. seth green looks fantastic and terry wilson has an awesome frame and has good velocity on the ball though accuracy may be suspect. rumor has it that this offer was made because green, because he has removed his “i am a duck recruit” message on twitter, that it is proof he has decommitted. there is no official evidence of this however…nor any remarks made by green to that effect. there is also a rumor that herbert said that someone told him that green had decommitted though this persons identity was not revealed nor the reporter he supposedly said it to. could this mean a last minute decommit by green the way that defensive back i cant remember did last year? just be ready for some drama at the end duck fans.