UCLA Football Preview: Shough Picks Up Where Herbert Left Off
Even with a new offensive coordinator and quarterback, the Oregon Ducks' offense has not missed a beat.
The Oregon Ducks will be hosting the UCLA Bruins on Saturday, and even though this is only the third official week of the Pac-12 season, the Ducks are looking for a win to become bowl eligible.
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal did not name a starting quarterback ahead of their first game of the season, but a clear starter has since emerged. Let’s take a look at the Ducks’ major players for Saturday’s game.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough will be commanding the Ducks offense for the third week in a row, and it’s no wonder why Cristobal gave Shough the nod. He currently has about a 68% completion percentage, improving to 70% last week after throwing 65% in week one. He is already responsible for six touchdowns, five in the air and one on the ground.
Shough was a consensus four-star out of high school and he is definitely living up to that mark. He is a pro-style quarterback with the potential to be Oregon’s next Justin Herbert and even Dez Bryant has taken notice. Shough has big shoes to fill, but has already picked up where Herbert left off. His leadership and desire to take ownership of this team has him off to a perfect start this season.
Redshirt junior Alex Forsythe is starting at center and, while this is his first season playing the position, he has the potential to be a huge playmaker. Forsythe was another one of Oregon’s four-star recruits and he is capable of playing all five positions on the front line. The Ducks have been tasked with replacing one of the top offensive lines in the country, which included Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell, NFL Draft picks Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson, as well as undrafted free agents Calvin Throckmorton and Brady Aiello and starter Dallas Warmack.
On the right, redshirt junior Malaesala Aumavavae-Laulu will be at guard and redshirt sophomore Steven Jones will be at tackle. The left side may feature Oregon’s only senior offensive linemen, Sam Poutasi at guard and George Moore at tackle.
While the Ducks work to regroup after losing so much at the end of last year, there is definitely room to play as they have several guys capable of moving around on the line.
UCLA is going to have a hard time stopping redshirt junior C.J. Verdell, who has been described by NBC Sports as “a freak but in a really, really good way”. The Ducks have a very good passer in Shough but, with Verdell on the ground, the Ducks are going to be extremely tough to beat. With new Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead coming in, it will be interesting to see how the run game evolves with such strong athletes on this team and the previous use of the pistol formation under current run game coordinator and running backs coach Jim Mastro. Verdell has already put together 223 yards and two touchdowns this year and there is no indication that he has plans to slow down.
Behind Verdell is another solid option in junior Travis Dye. He has 133 yards and one touchdown so far, but also has 87 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. Dye was instrumental in cementing the Ducks’ win at Washington State last week with a late 71-yard touchdown that gave Oregon a more comfortable lead when the Cougars pulled within six points in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Ducks have several options at receiver, beginning with senior Jaylon Redd. Redd currently leads the team with 128 yards receiving, but he hasn’t haul in a touchdown in their first two games. Senior Johnny Johnson III will also be out there, as he has already contributed 62 yards and a touchdown on only five catches.
The tight ends group is almost endless for Oregon, beginning with junior D.J. Johnson. He already has two touchdowns this year, and actually moved from defensive end last spring. Seniors Cam McCormick and Hunter Kampmoyer will be making their debuts on Saturday, both of whom are ready to make an impact. McCormick has been granted a sixth year of eligibility and has not been healthy enough to play a complete season for the last two years. Kampmoyer is looking to rectify key dropped pass in last January’s Rose Bowl that nearly cost Oregon the win against Wisconsin.
The Ducks will be without starting sophomore Mycah Pittman, who suffered two injuries last year, including a banged up shoulder and broken right arm.
There is no doubt the UCLA defense has their work cut out for them. With a deep stable of receivers, a solid quarterback seamlessly taking over for Herbert and a solid run game, this is going to be a tough road game for the Bruins.