Fans wondered if Oregon would throw more this season and so far, they haven't been throwing more but they're throwing better.
Through three games, the Ducks are averaging 17.3 yards a completion. Tennessee stacked the box against them, and Marcus Mariota and his receivers made them pay with 456 yards passing.
Mariota and Johnny Mundt got the accolades, but quietly, Josh Huff is having a superb senior year. Finally healthy and with new-found maturity and perspective, The Huff is blossoming into a number one target. Last Saturday against Tennessee he had 6 catches for 125 yards and a 54-yard td.
Several of his receptions have been clutch, tough ones with a defender on his back. He's shown the ability to get open deep, with a diving, 31-yard grab against Nicholls, a 46-yard over-the-shoulder catch at Virginia.
Huff's always had big play ability and a flair for the circus catch. He's always been a dedicated and relentless blocker. But this season he looks more comfortable and confident. He's stepped into the role of a seasoned leader looking poised in interviews and in command going deep. His hands have improved. So far he's avoided the dings and nicks that haunted him in his first three seasons.
Clearing the first hurdles: senior wideout Josh Huff has emerged as a team leader and clutch receiver in the Ducks first three games this season, leading the team with 14 catches for 298 yards and td (Gary Breedlove, Eugene Daily News photo).
The 5-11, 202 lb. athlete from Houston, Texas came to Oregon as a dynamic high school quarterback and running back. He played as a true freshman in 2010, on a squad that featured LaMichael James and Jeff Maehl and went to the national championship. Huff finished second in total yards that year, returning kicks, catching 19 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns and carrying the ball 12 times for 214 and two more scores. He had a 54-yard td catch against Arizona State and an 85-yard run against Arizona. He ran back a kick for 80 yards against Washington.
Fans expected great things from Huff as a sophomore and junior and he's always made plays and had some good games. But injuries slowed down, including a leg injury that caused him to miss three games last season, after missing two the year before.
Against USC and Cal last year Josh had the two best receiving games of his career, 11 catches, 234 yards and 5 tds. As a sophomore he caught 31 passes for 430 yards, but a 59-yard td grab against Stanford reminded fans how explosive he could be.
In March of 2012 Huff was cited for DUII, found not guilty last January. The experience seemed to deepen him. He told Hayden Kim of the Oregon Daily Emerald, “Any type of adversity you go through, whether it be injuries or anything off the field, it’s going to help you become a better person, a better player. So with my injuries in the past, it’s helped me to become a better player overall. Whenever injuries do come my way, I know how to handle them and how to help the younger guys get into tune with the things we do on offense.”
Watching and listening to Huff as he entered his final college season, it was evident he was ready for a big year. His manner and his body language, as well as the consistency he showed in fall camp, made it clear he was ready to put things together as a football player and a person. There's a new calm and assurance. Hearing him talk about graduating this summer and his goals with Jake Zivin in this interview with KEZI, it's easy to see why the senior wideout is playing so well right now.
With focus, an exceptional work ethic and a great attitude, Huff's success isn't a surprise. If he stays healthy, the senior could be the first Duck pass catcher to reach that 1,000-yard plateau since Maehl.
It's been gratifying to see him grow as a player and a person.
Josh Huff. Ever since his breakout freshman season, I've been waiting for the scary greatness to emerge. Only in spurts the last 2 years but so far this year, he is big time. Blocking, special teams on top of being a naturally tough, tenacious receiver who can take it all the way. It would be cool to see him carry the rock now and then. Then there's that phone. Josh Huff!
(Thanks for the edit function, Dale!)
If Josh can stay healthy, he can definitely be a star for this team. He can make those highlight reel catches on fourth down and knows how to block. With Josh, DAT, Johnny Football and Freakin' Lyerla all running patterns for Super Mario, we could have an unstoppable offense.
Josh has really came along way. I was quick to doubt him and his commitment to Oregon and always thought he would bolt after a year or two. Glad he proved me wrong. I have no doubts that he will get drafted. His numbers are not comparable to his talent although I think this year he will reach the 1,000 yard mark which should also send the NFL scouts a message that not only is he a physical specimen with superior blocking skills but he is also a solid pass catcher with some big play ability.
@rgyle Wish I could take credit for the edit button but like you I'm very glad for it also. Huff's emergence is a great sign for the Ducks, who are clearly going to need all their weapons after what we say today from Baylor, Stanford, Washington and others.
@duckified The Ducks have to get better to be ready for the Stanford team that demolished ASU today, crisp, disciplined and physically dominant.
@RaymondLaw1 nfldraftscout.com projects him as the #8 receiver in his class, a projected 4th-round pick. That could easily go up after the senior season he's having. His blocking ability and athleticism, the ability to play special teams and block on the perimeter, as well as his maturity and team focus will make him a great hit in the interview room. And, as Zivin's report shows, he has options and goals after football as well.
I think the Ducks have more game breakers than last year and Furd has less game breakers than last year. ASU scored 27 points on them and held them to only 42. Furd had 391 total yards of offense (a lot less than our average) against 419 for ASU and they were at home against a team who barely crawled into the top 25 on a fluke play with Wisconsin. I wasn't overly impressed with Furd and if we don't beat ourselves, I think our chances are very good.
@duckified @Dale Newton Funny! One thing I like is something New York Duck pointed out on another thread: Frost and Helfrich have shown greater flexibility switching it up game to game, inside running against Nicholls, outside running against Virginia, opening up the passing attack versus Tennessee.
@SonomaDuck @Dale Newton @duckified @Duckbill Agree, SD, that Mariota is showing the potential to blossom into the playmaker and leader this year after being a so-called "game manager" as a freshman. He's at a different level and seems to growing and improving. He could be the difference maker in that game. Stanford is what they have always been, big and physical.
Isn't it great to be a fan? You get the excitement of the game without enduring the grueling practices and you don't have to follow any team rules. I would go with the receivers vs the Furd secondary first. In the first half I think we should throw a lot of short quick passes off of play action, like screens, crossing patterns, short tight end patterns and hook routes so MM doesn't have to stand in there too long. In the second half the Furd big dogs pass rush is going to slow down and we can go with deep passes and fly sweeps. I hope they don't try to jam DAT up the middle very much in the early stages of the game. I wonder if we should experiment with Freakin' Lyerla at running back up the middle, early in the game, to tire the defensive line out quickly. Here's my take on the Furd game.
Huff's emergence is critical for the Ducks, because top defenses are figuring out the spread option: