When the Ducks eventually start their pre-season practices, they will be pretty thin at the tight-end position. Last season, the passing game put a huge emphasis on tight ends. Jacob Breeland was on track for a potential record-setting season before he injured his leg. This forced Justin Herbert to adjust to Hunter Kampmoyer and Ryan Bay. Both of these tight ends were certainly better pass blockers than pass catchers, but Herbert still threw the ball their way because passes to tight ends are very important to a successful air attack.
Fifteen years ago, tight ends were essentially an extra offensive lineman and were rarely targeted through the air. Even when they caught the ball, they couldn’t move very well and were mainly targeted for small five-yard gains. Football has evolved and tight ends now are one of the most athletic positions on the football field.
Breeland and Bay have both graduated from Oregon which leaves six remaining tight ends on the roster, but only five total touchdowns among them. Spencer Webb leads the way with three touchdowns. In addition to Webb, DJ Johnson was actually on defense last year, Cam McCormick has had his struggle with injuries and is looking for a strong comeback year, and the aforementioned Kampmoyer is, again, more of a blocker than an offensive playmaker.
In the group, there are two redshirt freshmen. Patrick Herbert is one of them, and is looking to keep the Herbert name strong in Eugene. Patrick is Justin’s younger brother, and didn’t see a whole lot of action on the field last year. Oregon fans missed the Herbert-to-Herbert connection for a touchdown last year, but it’s not out of the picture to see a Tyler Shough-to-Herbert connection this year.
Herbert has big shoes to fill, but at 6’5″ and 251 pounds, size is not the issue. Talent shouldn’t be an issue either, as the four-star recruit had a lot of accolades coming out of Sheldon High School in Eugene. He was ranked the number-one recruit in the state of Oregon by Rivals.com, and was also the sixth-ranked tight end in the entire country.
Being the hometown team for Herbert, Oregon had the recruiting advantage, but it still had to contend with offers from Cal, Oregon State, Florida and Nebraska. Herbert committed to Oregon in May of 2018, and signed during the early signing period for the 2019 cycle.
Herbert only appeared in one game last year, so what we know of him is based on his high school performances. In high school, he showed improvement every year, finishing his senior season with 43 receptions, 747 yards and 11 touchdowns. Although Oregon recruited Herbert as a tight end, he was a very good defensive end at Sheldon as well. During his senior season, he had 42 solo tackles, 27 assisted tackles and 7 sacks.
As mentioned, the Ducks are coming into this season skinny at the tight end position with only one tight end (Webb) who has proven to be a pass-catcher and has game experience. Yes, Oregon already has a strong wide receiving core returning for the 2020 season, but Herbert’s ability to catch passes from the tight end position will be a necessity for this offense to be successful. If his performances during spring practices, and the raves from his brother, provide any insight to Herbert’s abilities, this Herbert will have just as much of an impact as the last one.
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Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
My name is Cameron Johansson and I am a senior at the University of Oregon, majoring in journalism and minoring in business administration. I am originally from the East Coast, just north of Boston, but I have been an avid Ducks fan as long as I can remember. I was constantly seen with my vibrant yellow Ducks hat on at all times. My friends would often give me flack for that, but I didn’t care. Other than the Ducks, I am also a big fan of the Boston Red Sox, Celtics, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Penguins. I grew up playing predominantly hockey and golf, but always found time to catch the Ducks every Saturday. Feel free to follow me on twitter for some more hot takes on the Ducks and sports in general! My twitter handle is @CamJohansson
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