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Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.

Northwestern adds Oregon WR Jalen Brown as grad transfer

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High school seniors won’t be the only new additions to Pat Fitzgerald‘s Northwestern roster.

NU announced via a press release Thursday morning that the football program has added Jalen Brown to its personnel ranks.  Brown is expected to graduate from Oregon in June, meaning he’ll be eligible to play for the Wildcats immediately in 2017.

In addition to the upcoming season, the wide receiver will also have a second year of eligibility that he could use in 2018 if he so chooses.

Last season, Brown was fifth on the Ducks in receiving yards (318) and receiving touchdowns (three), while his 19 receptions were good for sixth.  His 16.7 yards per catch was tops on the team for players who had 10-plus receptions.

Brown, a four-star 2014 recruit, finishes his Ducks career with 26 catches for 407 yards and four touchdowns.

According to the school, Brown will pursue a master’s degree in sport administration at NU.

Royce Freeman eschews NFL, returns to Oregon for senior season

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Willie Taggart has in part himself to thank for his first significant “recruiting” win since taking over as Oregon’s head coach earlier this month.

Coming off a season in which injuries played a role in slowing him down, Royce Freeman announced Wednesday that he has decided to return to the Ducks for his senior season.  While the running back thanked his formed head coach in a statement, Freeman stated that Taggart “was certainly a factor in my return.”

Below is the back’s statement, in its entirety.

After consulting with my family and giving this considerable thought, I feel this is the best decision for me in regards to my future on and off the field. My education was one of the most important reasons I chose to come to Oregon and that priority hasn’t changed.

“I wish to thank Coach (Mark) Helfrich and the entire coaching staff for the roles they have played in my success thus far. I am extremely grateful to Coach (Gary) Campbell for everything he has taught me and the influence he has had in my life over the last three years.

“However, the prospect of playing for Coach (Willie) Taggart my final year here was certainly a factor in my return. His enthusiasm and vision for this program are contagious. I am excited to be coached by him and to enhance my development.

“All praise to the Most High; and Go Ducks.

Despite the injury issues, Freeman led the Ducks in rushing for a third straight season with 945 yards.  He rushed for 1,365 as a freshman in 2014 and a school-record 1,836 last season.  He’s less than 1,000 yards away from breaking LaMichael James‘ school record for career rushing yards (5,082) and needs 10 rushing touchdowns to break James’ mark of 53.

Oregon’s last-second TD has Utah’s Pac-12 South hopes teetering

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Entering Week 12, Utah was needing to win its last two games; have Colorado lose twice; and have USC lose its conference finale in order to claim the Pac-12 North.  Unfortunately for the Utes, they forgot to take care of their own business right out of the gate.

Up on Oregon 28-24 with less than 10 seconds to play, all Utah needed to do was keep the Ducks from the end zone from the Utes’ 17-yard line to keep their division title hopes from going on life support.  Justin Herbert and Darren Carrington, though, had other ideas.

That stunning touchdown with two seconds left gave the Ducks a 30-28 win and dropped the Utes to 5-3 in conference play with one game remaining. Depending on how the Colorado-Washington State game plays out — Buffs are up 28-24 at the end of the third as of this posting — Utah’s North hopes may officially be over.

If CU beats Wazzu, that would push the Buffs to 7-1 in the conference and officially eliminate the Utes from contention. Even if the Buffs lose, the Utes would need to beat them in Week 13 and hope that USC (6-2) loses to UCLA tonight. A Trojans win would also eliminate the Utes, regardless of what happens in the Utes-Buffs game.

A three-way tiebreaker is the only way the Utes can make it to the conference championship game. In that scenario, Utah would have the edge based on a 2-0 record against the other two teams.

Oregon’s Devon Allen to forego remaining eligibility to pursue pro track career

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To the surprise of absolutely no one, one of the fastest players in college football is leaving the sport, at least collegiately.

In a statement Wednesday, Devon Allen announced that he will forego his remaining eligibility in order to focus on a professional career in track.  The announcement comes three months after the wide receiver qualified for United States Olympics team and finished fifth in at the Rio Games in the 110-meter hurdles.

The announcement also comes nearly two months after he sustained a torn ACL, his second such tear in less than two years.

“I recognize that my success to date has been the result of the contributions of many who have supported me along this journey,” Allen said in a press release. “I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my family, coaches, teammates, school administrators, friends, classmates and all the fans who made competing at Autzen Stadium and Hayward Field some of the most unforgettable experiences I could ever imagine.”

Allen had two more seasons of track eligibility and one more of football.  He’s expected to remain enrolled in classes at the university as he embarks on a pro career.