By Ryan Thorburn

The (Eugene) Register-Guard

Next up

Oregon at No. 23 Stanford

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

TV: FS1 Line: Stanford by 10 1⁄2

EUGENE — The pass-catching cavalry is coming.

True freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister could be getting Oregon’s top two wide receivers back for his second start against No. 23 Stanford on Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.

Charles Nelson and Dillon Mitchell, who were unavailable to help Burmeister during the Ducks’ 33-10 loss to Washington State because of injuries, led the receiver drills during the portion of Tuesday’s practice open to the media.

“Without them last week it just felt like we didn’t have all of our weapons in our arsenal,” said receiver Brenden Schooler, who led the Ducks with five receptions for 61 yards against the Cougars. “Getting them back this week, we feel like we’re going to be a lot more dangerous on the outside.”

Despite not playing since injuring an ankle in the first half at Wyoming on Sept. 16, Nelson still leads the team with 243 receiving yards. Mitchell, who was out last week after suffering a concussion, has a team-high 19 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns.

“No one has more experience than Charles in big games, and we miss him, obviously,” co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “He’s got to get healthy, and Dillon has to get healthy. I think adding those guys back into the mix would help us out a little bit more.”

After Darren Carrington — the current Pac-12 leader in receiving yards per game (116.8) at Utah — was kicked off the Oregon team in July, Nelson was the only receiver on the roster with significant experience.

Against Washington State, Oregon started Schooler and Taj Griffin, who both played different positions last season, alongside true freshman Johnny Johnson at receiver.

Not surprisingly, Burmeister struggled in his debut, throwing two interceptions and finishing with 145 passing yards. His only touchdown pass was a 30-yard strike to tight end Jacob Breeland.

“When you look at us at the start of the season, we didn’t have a lot of experience,” wide receivers coach Michael Johnson said. “So we’re getting experience and guys are making the plays that they’re supposed to make. They’re doing a good job of run blocking.”

Schooler is tied with Mitchell for the team lead with two touchdown receptions. The former starting safety was in pain after falling on a knee at the end of the game last Saturday at Autzen Stadium, but he practiced at full speed Tuesday.

“I think he’s progressing well,” Michael Johnson said of Schooler’s transition from defense to offense. “He’s learning under the gun, in the fire, but he’s doing a good job. He’s starting to get better and he’s starting to produce a little more.”

Griffin suffered a torn ACL in practice before last year’s Stanford game. Now healthy, the speedy 5-foot-11 junior has been adding depth at receiver this fall after two seasons at running back.

“He’s trying to get comfortable, trying to find out where he fits and he’s starting to get better also,” Michael Johnson said of Griffin, who has nine receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown this season. “Guys are learning, they’re working hard, and that’s all you can ask for. They’re doing the best they can right now.”

Johnny Johnson has 17 receptions for 228 yards and a touchdown. Malik Lovette, who dropped a pass against Washington State, has only one reception for 27 yards. Alex Ofodile has only three receptions for 23 yards.

Quarterback Taylor Alie returned to practice this week after being ruled out against the Cougars because of a concussion, but Burmeister is expected to be orchestrating the offense until Justin Herbert returns from a fractured collarbone.

“When you throw a new quarterback in there after you’ve been working with a guy for a long period of time, it takes time to get adjusted to a new guy,” Michael Johnson said. “But we’re playing games and we don’t have a lot of time.

“So we have to get that fixed quickly, we have to make sure we’re continuing to develop that timing in practice and get to the game ready to roll.”

Stanford ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in pass defense (251.8 yards per game), ninth in rushing defense (182.0 ypg) and eighth in total defense (433.8 ypg).

With more depth and experience on track to play this week, the cavalry is ready to ride alongside the young quarterback on the road.

“He’s a fighter, he’s not going to quit,” Schooler said of Burmeister. “That’s all you can ask for from a young quarterback is just keep on fighting until the end of the game.”

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