Justin Herbert will not have his favorite target for the remainder of the season.
Jacob Breeland, who is tied for the FBS lead for touchdown receptions by a tight end with six, suffered a season-ending knee injury during last Friday’s 45-3 win over Colorado at Autzen Stadium.
For the second consecutive Monday, coach Mario Cristobal confirmed the loss of a key senior starter. Defensive end Gus Cumberlander’s collegiate career also ended with a knee injury against California.
Breeland had been taking full advantage of playing in front of the army of NFL scouts showing up to watch Herbert this season. In six games, the intriguing 6-foot-5, 250-pound draft prospect had 26 receptions for a team-high 405 yards (15.6 per catch) and the team-high six scores.
“He’s a really good player, and I think nowadays these injuries are very fixable,” Cristobal said of Breeland’s future at the next level. “He’ll come back and he’ll train and he’ll be ready to play. We think he’s going to play a long time.”
No. 12 Oregon will have to regroup during practices this week ahead of the key Pac-12 North Division road game against No. 25 Washington at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Tight end was arguably the deepest position for the Ducks entering fall camp, but projected starter Cam McCormick, of Bend, will not play this season due to an ankle injury.
Hunter Kampmoyer and Ryan Bay, upperclassmen known more for their blocking than their receiving skills, are listed as co-starters on this week’s depth chart.
Cristobal said redshirt freshman Spencer Webb will move from slot receiver back to tight end. True freshman Patrick Herbert will also have a chance to play a more significant role in the offense during his older brother’s final season as the program’s quarterback.
“We trust them both,” Cristobal said. “Certainly Spencer’s had a lot of reps at that position. We feel Patrick is going to be an excellent player, we’re just going to have to accelerate his development.”
Oregon has been getting healthier at wide receiver with the return of Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler two weeks ago.
Junior receiver Jaylon Redd has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games and is tied with Breeland for the team lead in receptions (26).
Cristobal said the Ducks won’t be using four-receiver sets to make up for the loss of Breeland in the passing game.
“You could really put yourself in a tough position, in terms of running the football, if you try to play without a tight end,” Cristobal said. “That hasn’t been our personality. It might be a good thing for spring to bring up.”
There was better news from the training room for Oregon’s defense. Starting linebacker Troy Dye and safety Jevon Holland, who were both shaken up after colliding against Colorado, are cleared to play.
Cristobal is optimistic Breeland will bounce back from having his productive senior campaign cut short and the healthy tight ends will fill the void.
“Jake is not a pity party guy. He’s ready to attack the whole process of getting healthy again so he can play again,” Cristobal said. “The way we develop, the way we train, we have confidence in the next man up. It showed up (against Colorado) again on both sides of the ball.
“Complete confidence and trust in our guys, and we have to continue to prepare and continue to elevate the way that we prepare.”
Pac-12 award winners
Freshman safety Verone McKinley was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the week, and sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell earned the conference’s offensive lineman of the week honor for the third time this season.
McKinley, the first Duck to earn the defensive award since Ugo Amadi last season, had two interceptions and a career-high five tackles against the Buffaloes. He also deflected a pass that was intercepted by linebacker Bryson Young.
Sewell was the highest graded Pac-12 offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. He led the team with six knockdown blocks and did not allow a quarterback hurry, hit or sack for the fourth time this season.
Washington State kickoff
Oregon’s home game against Washington State on Oct. 26 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, the Pac-12 announced Monday.
The Ducks have lost four consecutive games to the Cougars, including the last two meetings at Autzen Stadium (45-38 in overtime in 2015 and 33-10 in 2017).
Washington State (3-3, 0-3) will be looking for its first Pac-12 win of the season against Colorado at home this Saturday.