Starting quarterback Justin Herbert announced that he will be returning to Oregon for his senior season.
The 6-foot-6 Herbert was considered one of the top two quarterbacks for the upcoming NFL Draft. Several mock drafts listed Herbert as a top ten pick. Herbert threw everyone a curveball when he released a statement declaring his intentions to return to college.
Herbert said, “As we prepare for our bowl game, I would like to ensure that there are no distractions outside of this game. My commitment to my teammates, our coaches, Duck fans, and the university of Oregon has never been stronger.”
The Oregon Ducks (8-4) are prepping to play Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Many students and NFL draft pundits expected the Redbox Bowl would be Herbert’s final game as a member of the Oregon Ducks.
Oregon is currently a -2.5 favorite over Michigan State (7-5).
With Herbert remaining at Oregon, the Ducks are expected to have all 11 offensive starters returning to the lineup next season. Herbert and the Ducks have their eye on a Pac-12 title and they have a chance to compete for the national championship with a tough slate of games.
“Nothing could pull me away from the opportunities that we have in front of us,” Herbert said.
In addition to the usual powerhouses in the Pac-12, the Ducks go on the road to play Auburn in the opening game of the 2019 season. A win against Auburn will put the Ducks on the path to a potential title shot.
As a starter, Herbert is only 16-9. For his career, he completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 6,904 yards. He is ranked third overall in Oregon history with 62 touchdowns. Herbert threw at least one touchdown in 27 straight games. This season, Herbert tossed 28 touchdowns and finished 15 yards short of a 3,000-yard passing season.
Brothers in Arms
Justin Herbert grew up in Eugene, the same town where Oregon is located. He did not have to travel far to attend college. Herbert will have a chance to play with his younger brother, Patrick Herbert. Patrick was dubbed a four-star recruit at tight end and recently declared his intention to play for Oregon next season. The possibility that Herbert could throw a touchdown to his younger brother was one of the many reasons he opted to stay in school.
Herbert is not the first highly-touted quarterback from the Pac-12 to return to action for his senior year. Andrew Luck stayed at Stanford despite the opportunity to be a top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. During the 2011 season, Luck finished second overall in the Heisman voting. The Indianapolis Colts picked Luck with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Herbert will not be the first Duck to return to the pond either. Marcus Mariota had a chance to go pro after his junior season, but he returned to Oregon for a senior year in 2014. It was a wise choice because Oregon went to the national championship game and Mariota won the Heisman Trophy. The Tennessee Titans selected Mariota with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
Probably the biggest benefactor of the Herbert news will be Nick Foles. The backup quarterback from the Philadelphia Eagles is in the final year of his contract. Foles is expected to land a huge contract in the offseason.
With Herbert off the table, teams in desperate need of a quarterback lost the chance to land a premier QB in the upcoming draft. The Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars are all seeking a quarterback.
With Herbert staying behind in Eugene, Foles’ stock took a major uptick. Foles led the Eagles to a victory in Super Bowl LII and won the MVP while filling in for Carson Wentz, who blew out his knee late in the season.
Foles started the first two games this season before Wentz returned to the lineup in Week 3. When Wentz went down with a fractured back, Foles returned to the starting line up with the Eagles trying to claw their way into the playoffs.
Herbert faded a potential disaster. Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is an admirer of Herbert. Gruden wanted to select Herbert in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Raiders have extra first-round picks after trading away Kahlil Mack and Amari Cooper.
With Herbert out of the mix, the top QBs in the draft are Will Grier (West Virginia), Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), and Drew Lock (Missouri).
Although Kyler Murray from Oklahoma won the Heisman Trophy, the two-sport star athlete is expected to pursue a career in professional baseball.