With sophomore QB Justin Herbert out for 4-6 weeks with a collarbone fracture, Oregon must decide between fifth-year senior Taylor Alie or true freshman Braxton Burmeister. As of Wednesday, the Ducks and coach Willie Taggart were not in a rush to make a decision.
“We still have (Wednesday’s) practice, Thursday’s practice, Friday’s practice. And we have a late game, so we have all day Saturday,” said Taggart, per The Register-Guard. “It depends on how those guys progress throughout the week.”
With No. 11 Washington State coming to town, Oregon is in an unenviable position. Alie has played sparingly over his career and left the Ducks’ 45-24 victory over California with a concussion, though he has practiced this week. Meanwhile, Burmeister is an inexperienced true freshman with one pass under his belt.
The Cougars dismantled USC’s passing game last week in their 30-27 win over the Trojans, only allowing USC QB Sam Darnold to pass for 164 yards.
Oregon co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said that it is “not clear at all” who will start for the Ducks and that not much is separating the two quarterbacks. “I’m not sure if there’s anything that sets them truly that far apart,” said Arroyo, per Steve Mims of The Register-Guard.
Arroyo also added that is was possible for both Alie and Burmeister to see time against Washington State.
“They both got their feet wet last week,” Arroyo said. “Justin (Herbert) went out after 21 plays, so it is not like they got in with two plays left. They got a chance to go out and do some great things. I’m excited about the opportunity for those guys to go out there and work through it.”
While Alie is a known quantity around Eugene, Burmeister is certainly more enticing to fans. The freshman was the No. 7 ranked dual-threat QB in the nation by Rivals.
“Braxton has done a good job since camp coming in and competing,” Arroyo said. “We made the (quarterback) room very aware that all it takes is one play and there it is. That came to fruition so we’ll move forward. We stayed on the guys a lot during practice during the last four weeks when maybe they weren’t in the spotlight. We made sure they were locked in, and this is why.”
Oregon fans can expect that the team will continue to be a run-first offense and perhaps even more so now. Oregon lineman Shane Lemieux says that both Alie and Burmeister run more than Herbert.
“Taylor and Braxton are probably more active runners than Justin, who’s more drop back and throw it,” Lemieux said, per The Register-Guard.
Oregon’s star RB Royce Freeman should be back against the Cougars, which should either QB. However, if the Ducks aren’t able to establish a passing game, it could be a long night against a red-hot Washington State team.
The Ducks and Cougars will meet in Eugene on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT on FOX.
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