Is it time for Oregon to hit the panic button?
After exceeding expectations to start the season 4-1, the Oregon Ducks have dropped three straight games. Oregon has not won a game since starting quarterback Justin Herbert went down with a broken collarbone on Sept. 30. The team has averaged only 10.3 points-per-game in its fall to a .500 record, a huge drop from 50.0 in the five games prior. Could this downward spiral be a red flag to potential recruits?
Oregon fans hope that this is not the case. After all, it isn’t the coaching staff’s fault that the talent-gap between the starting quarterback and true freshman backup Braxton Burmeister is so large. It’s obvious that in order to compete in a Power 5 conference, a team has to have a stellar starting quarterback. Burmeister has shown flashes of being able to hold his own, but a lack of consistent passing has kept Oregon from competing the last three weeks.
A backup quarterback’s performance is unlikely to move the needle on any recruit’s opinion of a school, but the coaching staff’s ability to keep players in the program might. The Willie Taggart transition had a rough start when two backup quarterbacks in Terry Wilson Jr. and Travis Jonsen transferred.
These departures weren’t seen as major losses when they were announced, but Oregon is feeling the fallout months later. Either Wilson Jr. or Jonsen would have been more prepared to be thrown into the fire than Burmeister. Every freshman wants to play, but a lack of positional depth forcing someone to play when he is not ready could turn a recruit away if he wants to keep his stock high.
It doesn’t help that Oregon had arguably its worst game of the season on one of their most important recruiting days. In the first game without Herbert, Oregon was smashed by Washington State 33-10. To add salt to the wound, Oregon was hosting several top recruits, including 5-star receiver/athlete Devon Williams and athlete Talanoa Hufanga, the number one recruit in the state of Oregon.
Hufanga has already stated that he will not officially visit the Ducks, instead using his official visits to go to other schools around the country. This makes matters worse, as a strong performance would have been a great chance to impress the highly sought-after recruit.
Despite some of these misfires, Oregon has yet to feel blowback from its losing streak. The team has only one commitment in the month of October, but that comes from four-star quarterback Tyler Shough. Taggart’s Florida connections will continue to be at work as well, with three-star athlete Terrence Horne making an official visit on Oct. 28.
Justin Herbert’s injury has obviously not helped Oregon recruiting in any way, but it is still unclear if it will damage it. His injury has highlighted some of the weaknesses in the current squad, which has much of the same personnel as the team that went 4-8 last year. That could be concerning to some recruits who hope to contend for a national title. At the same time, Taggart’s first recruiting class remains top five in the nation, and prospects notice that. Oregon’s losing streak hasn’t changed the fact that the team is miles ahead of where it was last season. The current record shouldn’t matter as much to recruits when Oregon’s future is bright.