For most of the past four seasons, the Oregon football team knew who would be under center when the game started — Justin Herbert.
The Sheldon High star capped a standout college career by leading the Ducks to a 12-2 record last season, a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl victory.
Herbert helped guide an offense that averaged a touch over 35 points per game last season by completing 286 of 428 passes for 3,471 yards and 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
For his college career, Herbert played in 43 games and went 29-14 as a starter.
Six of those losses came in his freshman year when the Ducks finished 4-8 and missed the postseason. All told, Herbert passed for 10,541 yards with 95 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
But Herbert was drafted sixth overall in April’s NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers and will make his fourth start of the season on Monday night.
“It certainly is different,” Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said in a Zoom call with the media on Wednesday. “We’ve been accustomed to seeing No. 10 take every snap under center for a good chunk of time now.”
So, who will the Ducks, picked by the media who cover the Pac-12 to repeat as conference champs, turn to when the delayed 2020 campaign gets under way on Nov. 7 at home against Stanford?
For now, it appears the job is redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough’s to lose. Training camp started Friday.
Shough played in five games last season, going 12-for-15 in limited action for 144 yards and three scores. He took 53 snaps.
“You’ve seen bits and pieces of practice, probably more drill work than anything else, but something that I’ve said from the beginning since Justin’s departed is that Tyler Shough has done a great job, he really has,” Cristobal said. “When he’s had his opportunities in there in practice and in spring ball, he got off to a great, great start.
“He has a natural field presence. He has a commanding presence out there.”
Boston College graduate transfer Anthony Brown will also be in the mix, Cristobal said.
Brown started at times over the past three seasons for the Eagles, passing for 4,738 yards and 40 touchdowns to go with 20 interceptions. He added 423 yards rushing and four more scores over that time.
“He also is an extremely talented guy that really is hungry and driven, just like Tyler,” Cristobal said. “And he’s done some great things and had a really good career out there at Boston College.
“… We’ll enter Day 1 with Tyler taking the first reps and with Anthony taking the reps with the twos,” Cristobal said. “We’re going to make it a competition, but it’s going to start off like that.”
In addition, to Shough and Brown, the Ducks have three freshmen — Cale Millen, Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford — vying to make the depth chart in some capacity.
“The other three guys are talented guys and we have to ramp them up,” Cristobal said. “Unfortunately, the consequences of not being able to have spring ball and not being able to have our player-led practices like we normally do in the summer really impacts that position probably more than any other position.
“But we have pretty unique ways of ramping people up. They’re hungry, and as long as they are they’ll have a shot. As soon as we feel they are ready to enter that competition, they’ll be in it. Right now they’re competing with each other to see who can vie for that third spot.”