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.
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.
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