The 2020 NFL Draft is still several months away and there’s no doubt draft boards will change several times between now and next April.
A name that routinely pops up at or near the top of the draft however is Justin Herbert. For more than a year, the star quarterback at Oregon has been viewed as one of the country’s top pro prospects.
This week, the Colorado Buffaloes (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) will get an up-close look at Herbert as they visit the No. 13 Ducks (4-1, 2-0) on Friday night.
“He’s one of those players that can do everything,” CU head coach Mel Tucker said. “It’s going to be hard to find holes in his game when he moves on to the next level. I can see why everyone thinks that he might be the best quarterback in the country.”
Herbert has thrown for 1,341 yards, 15 touchdowns and only one interception, while completing a career-best 71.6 percent of his passes this season.
On paper, the matchup is brutal for the Buffs, who rank 122nd nationally in pass efficiency defense, with an opponent QB rating of 162.62. Only six of the nation’s 130 teams have given up more passing yards than the Buffs, who are allowing 313.6 per game.
“The quarterback is a fantastic player,” CU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said. “As you watch through the film, you’re trying to find weaknesses; I don’t know how many are really there. A guy that can run, a guy that can throw, a guy that can think and be able to make plays as a game manager, as well.”
CU goes into the game without one of its best cornerbacks, as sophomore Chris Miller is out for the season with a knee injury. The Buffs have also been banged up at safety and finished last week’s game against Arizona with third stringers on the field. CU is hoping starting safeties Aaron Maddox (leg laceration) and Mikial Onu (torso) will be able to play this week.
Regardless of who plays, the Buffs have to figure out to eliminate big plays in the passing game. The Buffs have allowed five pass plays of 50-plus yards (only two teams in the country have allowed more) and 57 passes of 10-plus yards.
“We’re trying to obviously emphasize to prevent the big plays that are coming up in the passing game right now,” Summers said. “Making sure everybody’s on the same page, making sure they understand the tendencies from the pre-snap alignments and looks that we’ve gotten and being able to have their eyes in the right place. We really feel like if we can do those things, then we can clean up some of these explosive plays we’re giving up in the passing game.”
Pursell out indefinitely
Sophomore Colby Pursell, who started the first four games of the season at right guard, is out indefinitely with an illness that will cause him to have surgery to remove his gallbladder.
Pursell was limited to just 15 snaps against Air Force on Sept. 14, and then dressed but did not play last Saturday against Arizona. That snapped a streak of 16 consecutive starts.
“This is a good thing for him,” Tucker said. “He’s going to recover from it and we’ll get him back as soon as we can.”
Redshirt freshman Casey Roddick started in Pursell’s place against Arizona and is atop the depth chart this week.
CU finished the Arizona game with several players injured, including standout receivers Laviska Shenault and KD Nixon. Shenault did not play against Arizona because of a core muscle strain.
“They’re day to day,” Tucker said. “They’re going to be ready when they’re ready. Those guys want to play obviously; they’re competitors. We just have to continue to treat them and work through it and see where they end up.”
Tucker said nose tackle Jalen Sami, who left the Arizona game with a knee injury, is “working back and he’s getting better,” and said tight end Brady Russell “is trending towards being ready to go.”
Tucker hopes to have several of the injured Buffs back on the field this week.
Tucker said Tuesday was a “good, physical practice” and added that he’s been impressed with how the players handled the short week. … Tucker and Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal were both on Alabama’s coaching staff in 2015. He worked with Oregon special teams coordinator Bobby Williams at Alabama in 2015 and at Michigan State in 1997-98. … The Buffs will wear gold helmets, white jerseys and black pants on Friday.