Justin Herbert is back on Oregon’s depth chart and taking snaps with the first unit in practice.
Whether or not that means he will be Oregon’s starting quarterback Saturday night against Washington isn’t information that Willie Taggart is ready to reveal.
The first-year Oregon coach continued to be cryptic when discussing Herbert’s status on Wednesday, mentioning “the Good Lord” and “football Gods” along with the sophomore quarterback and Taggart himself among those yet to determine Herbert’s fate.
“I think it is in Justin’s hands and the Good Lord’s hands to make sure he’s healed and ready to go,” Taggart said during his final media interview before facing the Huskies. “Nobody will know until we get out there and he takes a hit and we won’t know until the game because he won’t get hit in practice.”
So, how will the Ducks know if Herbert is ready to return?
“You won’t know,” Taggart said. “The football Gods will let us know.”
Herbert was in uniform for Oregon’s 41-20 win over Utah on Saturday, but did not play in the game. It marked the first time he suited up for the Ducks since suffering a fractured collarbone against California on Sept. 30.
After the game, Taggart said “I think if we needed to play Justin, he could have played”. Asked if Herbert had been medically cleared by doctors, the coach responded “Not one doctor told me he couldn’t play”.
Taggart was asked again Wednesday if Herbert was cleared to return.
“The doctors told us where he is and Justin told us how he’s feeling,” he said. “He goes out in practice and is performing well. If you saw practice yesterday, you’d have said ‘OK, he’s ready’, but as I said the other day, we are not going to put him out there unless he is healed and ready to go. We are not going to jeopardize our franchise.”
Herbert, who has not been made available for interviews since the injury, was taking snaps behind Oregon’s starting offensive line in practice and went through a couple contact drills that he was held out of last week. He was cheered by teammates after throwing a deep ball to Charles Nelson in the end zone.
Oregon’s depth chart for the Huskies lists Herbert or Braxton Burmeister as the starter. Taggart said the final decision may not be made until pregame warm-ups.
“Justin made some big-time plays out there yesterday that got everyone excited,” Taggart said. “He’s competing and getting better and looking really good. Really good.”