Coach’s Comments: “I know who will be the next NFL 1st Round QB from Oregon”

Justin Herbert

(In following with the policies of the University of Oregon Athletic Department, this article will not discuss plays, formations, blitzes, tactics, injuries or anything of a detailed nature before the 2016 football season begins. We will revert back to the days of the old “Fish Reports” where the information was primarily football gossip, yet enjoyed by all. More recent versions of this type of report can be found on the GoDucks.com site, although we too, can have fun giving our thoughts and impressions of some members of the 2016 Football team.  – Charles Fischer)

The sights and sounds of an Oregon football practice contain some of the new (the blaring noise/music of the recent years) and the old (the familiar screeching of the Ospreys in the background between song cuts) and both gave us that great old feel of football again. This article will not be the usual neat paragraphs of organized thoughts, but instead some rambling notes from the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, (Mike Morris) our Duck Buddy Gageac and from Charles FishDuck” Fischer himself.

From FishDuck …

The receiver that surprised me the most was the one I assumed to be buried deep in the depth chart of WRs. Jalen Brown really stood out in the recent practice I attended; he did not have breakaway speed, huge height, or mega-hops, but this guy just gets open. He reminded me of a smaller version of Tony Hartley from 18 years back, who became a favorite for QBs. I regard him as the one to step in for Dwayne Stanford next year as the next Mr. 3rd & 8 who is a reliable target for moving the chains.

The "Freak" Pharaoh Brown.

Kevin Cline

The “Freak” Pharaoh Brown.

Boy it is great to see “the freak” Pharaoh Brown out on the field again without a brace. He makes it look easy with his blasting blocks at the LOS, yet he easily glides into the flat as a receiver and turns up-field to do stiff-arm battles with secondary defenders. He is so unique at 6’6″ and fast, and I expect the special play-packages devised for him in 2014 will return to the current playbook.

When Tristen Wallace was measured at 6’4″ and 235, with WR speed, I assumed he was the heir-apparent to Brown, until I saw him in person and had to agree with the GOC; he looks like a wide receiver, and does not have a tight end’s body yet. He catches the ball easily and has the body control of a wideout. He will be interesting to keep an eye on; will he become a present day LaCorey Collins, or a future Pharaoh Brown? Mike says “receiver,” but I wonder if that will be true in a year …

It is apparent that Dakota Prukop has the ability to throw the long ball, and has the green light from the coaching staff to do so. On one particular play, Prukop’s downfield spiral was a sight to behold as it arched over the defense and spun to Darren Carrington for a long gain. Darren had to wait a touch and then positioned his body to be the only one with an opportunity to leap for the catch. The savvy veteran teaching Oregon’s young DBs …

From Gageac …  

(Pronounced “Gah – jack,” the name comes from this)

A.J. Hotchkins

From Video

A.J. Hotchkins

Brendan Schooler was making plays, and many of them consisted of little details that don’t show up in the stats, but are crucial to winning football games. It was surprising to see a true freshman catch a punt in a drill, yet make veteran defensive players miss him from his sidesteps and avoid tackles with his toughness. Heck, Schooler could be a running back!

A.J. Hotchkins seemed very fluid in his reading and reacting in the run game. He looked quicker than the competitors at his position, and seemed like a “waterbug” darting around and playing downhill between the tackles. It was very encouraging to see after the last few years of inside linebacker play.

From the Grizzled Ol’ Coach …

Troy Dye (6-4, 225, true freshman – he doesn’t seem as heavy as his listed weight). A very aggressive tackler as a linebacker, yet he has safety skills as far as open field tackling and in coverage. He is in position to be a surprise starter at outside linebacker, as he attended spring practice and now looks to be a “natural” at strongside linebacker (“SAM”) spot. At this practice he was all over the place with his speed and tenaciousness. He really looks like an OLB who could actually play safety, which is just what’s needed at this position.

Malik Lovette (5-11, 200, redshirt freshman). He keeps showing up on defense making plays such as tough open field tackles on very talented players. Malik has very fast feet and is not afraid to be very physical in his tackling. He is playing corner now on the second team, as he was a mid-season offensive convert last season but appears to have all the necessary skills and intangibles (definitely mentally and physically tough). Is this Kenjon Barner in reverse?

A.J. Hotchkins (5-11, 230, JC  junior). He seems just right for the middle linebacker (“MIKE”) job, as he is very quick and athletic and yet big enough to take-on big backs and offensive linemen as a true run-stuffer.

Will Wallace be more like Pharaoh Brown, or like Darren Carrington? (Above)

Craig Strobeck

Will Tristen Wallace be more like Pharaoh Brown, or like Darren Carrington? 

Tristen Wallace (6-4, 235, true freshman). Many projected him to grow into a TE, but he looks pretty awesome as a slot receiver, as he definitely has the speed and hands for the position. Devon Allen’s absence might open the door for Tristen, although Jalen Brown and Alex Ofodile have looked very good in camp.

And we’ve saved the best for last. I’ve seen the Ducks’ next 1st-round draft pick QB, and he’s a true freshman.  Prukop, Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson looked like I thought they would, as they are very talented, but there is still a lot of room to get better. Some excellent plays by them were mixed in with (probably too many) mistakes.

There is good-to-excellent potential among them, which is about what I expected. On the other hand, Justin Herbert, (6-6, 225, true freshman) was INCREDIBLE, especially considering his amount of practice time.  But, EVEN IF HE WERE A VETERAN, I’d have thought he was the best of the Duck QBs.

FishDuck Addition: When Mike and I spoke about Herbert, we were trying to put a description on the type of ball that he threw as many of the labels we came up with were misleading. The reason we had such trouble is because Justin throws a ball with a ton of zip, yet somehow it is still a very catchable ball for receivers. While this sounds contradictory (and admittedly is in many ways), it matches what the players were saying in interviews. Passes from Herbert were easier to catch; even when thrown hard!

The dude is simply incredibly smooth and flawless, and he just DIDN’T MAKE ANY MISTAKES.  On his one interception – which was the result of a receiver dropping the ball – Helfrich ran over to give him a jumping high-five. He has the best arm out there, and – for this one day at least, the most poise and decision-making ability of any of the QBs. And I haven’t even mentioned his running ability, which he strongly displayed in an early drill period.

When FishDuck asked me for a comparison, I said, “A bigger, much faster version of Jared Goff,” … and we all know what happened to him! Can/should he start or burn his redshirt year (he was running with the two’s for the entire practice)? A very similar guy from Hawaii, whose initials are M.M., had to redshirt.

Herbert’s future is in the hands of coaches far wiser than I. We know Josh Rosen did fine as a UCLA true freshman as did Goff for Cal. Is Herbert really better than Prukop? We’ll find out.

While all of this is fun – it just whets our appetite for more football. Thank goodness the season is just around the corner!

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Mike Morris
Retired High School Coach, and College Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Pleasant Hill, Oregon

Top Photo of Justin Herbert from OregonLive 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.

  • Platypus

    Thanks Mike, you called this a long time ago when JH was at Sheldon. Last year after viewing his hilite videos i couldn’t believe what i was watching…He has every NFL skill you want in a QB. I don’t think MH will red shirt him, He’s just to good and can have an immediate impact if needed. Again, he’s better then MM was at this age.

    • Thanks for pointing how Mike was telling me nearly two years ago….”Oregon should be looking at the Sheldon QB.” At first I thought he was nuts, but have come to respect the fact that he is right 95%+ of the time.

      Then….about six months later we learned that the Ducks WERE looking at Herbert, and the rest is the beginning of what we think will be some sweet history for Oregon football.

      Nice call Playypus, and thanks.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      better than MM at this stage? well i cant say that you are wrong because i havent seen anything of herbert except for his HS film but since i bleed green and gold no one wants to believe you more than i do. still what you say seems like a bit of a stretch.

      • Platypus

        I was comparing both of their senior year in high school videos. Watch their foot work and JH’s natural throwing motion over MM’s. Now the question is, will JH develop as much as MM? When he left Oregon MM was as complete a player to come out of college as any time in the last generation.

        • Anthony Joseph Gomes

          im more interested in results than the throwing motion stuff. throwing motions are like modern art and everyone has an opinion on what works and what doesnt. the difference being that football is judged on wins and losses(or media expert opinion depending on your orientation) while modern art gets argued over white whine buy guys with masters degrees.

          • dunkonyerhed

            For what it’s worth, here’s a comparison of their HS senior year stats…

            Mariota –
            2,597 yards
            165 of 255 passing (64.7%)
            32 TDs, 5 INTs
            236 YPG

            Herbert –
            2915 Yards
            177 of 266 passing (66.6%)
            36 TDs, 3 INTs
            265 YPG

            Mariota picked up the offense amazingly well, was intelligent and coachable. He developed highly at Oregon. Time will only tell if Herbert will do the same, but reports are (so far) extremely positive for Herbert.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Great stuff Mike after I watched film of the kid I pretty much said to myself and anyone who’d listen this young man will be the next great QB at UO. He will also play at the next level because he’s got all the intangibles. A faster Drew Bledsoe.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      mariota redshiirted a year. jameis winston redshirted a year. nick foles redshirted a year. matt barkley didnt redshirt a year but probably should have. i think not redshirting a QB year 1 is either overoptimism on the part of their coaches or desperation on the part of the program and putting the true freshman on the field is done at his expense. give herbert a year to learn the playbook. the ducks will be fine in 2016.

      • 2017 is a MASSIVE rebuilding year at Oregon–one of the biggest in a very long time. To play Herbert this year and give him game experience will help us enormously for 2017. In fact the entire view of 2017 changes if you have a talented QB with some game experience.

        The reality is….he is here three years max; it is the way it is these days. Why sit him on the pine for one of them?

        • Anthony Joseph Gomes

          a redshirt gives you an extra year. mariota didnt end up needing it but its always better to be safe than sorry. if herbert is head and shoulders above prukop and jonsen i might agree with you but then i would wonder why he wasnt in the spring game. did he just have some sort of massive epiphany within the last few months? sorry but this aint adding up for me though you sound like you may be closer to the practice field than i am so who knows.

          • Boggs

            He wasn’t in the spring game because he was still in high school.

            And if a player is talented, redshirting doesn’t give you an extra year. It gives you one less year. That’s what Fish’s second paragraph above is getting at.

          • Anthony Joseph Gomes

            your first comment is spot on. your second comment is really weird.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    well that is encouraging about justin herbert but i am not ready to sign off on him because of one or two practices. the thing is if he does become the real deal ala mariota it will mean that the media experts completely whiffed twice in analyzing duck quarterback talent. and yet their “you cant develop a quarterback” rhetoric will continue to resonate in the mind of fools into the indefinite future.