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Pac-12 spring football notebook: Justin Herbert returns to quarterback Oregon Ducks

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert throws downfield against Arizona State on Nov. 17, 2018, in Eugene. Herbert will return for his senior season this fall. (Chris Pietsch / Associated Press)
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert throws downfield against Arizona State on Nov. 17, 2018, in Eugene. Herbert will return for his senior season this fall. (Chris Pietsch / Associated Press)
By Anne M. Peterson Associated Press

One Pacific-12 Conference team that doesn’t have a quarterback issue is Oregon, which has Justin Herbert back for his senior season.

Some had thought Herbert might leap to the NFL early, but he announced before Oregon’s Redbox Bowl victory over Michigan State that he’d return.

The biggest revelation out of Oregon’s spring game was the development of presumed backup Tyler Shough, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 178 yards and a score.

“It just kind of clicked at the end of the season,” coach Mario Cristobal said about the redshirt freshman’s emergence. “There has been tremendous growth there. We are confident in him going into the season.”

Costello’s back

Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello also is returning for his senior year, and the Cardinal can use him. The team embarks on 2019 without many of its leaders from last year, including running back Bryce Love, wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside and tight end Kaden Smith.

Two weeks ago, Costello played in his first spring game, going 8 for 15 for 85 yards. He missed prior spring games because of injury. Costello threw for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns last year.

“There’s no replacement for experience, and the experience he gained last year was phenomenal, and he had the possibility to join the draft and go to the NFL,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “But I think he knew in his heart, too, there are things he can work on, things he can improve. It’s not just about being drafted, it’s about being you best self when you take that next step.”

So is Luton

Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton won a sixth season of eligibility, so he’s expected to be the starter for Oregon State going into the fall – at least for now. Luton passed for a team-high 1,660 yards and 10 touchdowns last season but his career has been marred by injury.

He’ll have competition from sophomore Tristan Gebbia, a transfer from Nebraska who was the Beavers’ scout team quarterback last season.

The Beavers finished 2-10 overall and 1-8 in the Pac-12 in former quarterback Jonathan Smith’s first year as coach.

Going early

Some schools, like Oregon, have more traditional games for fans to cap spring camp, but some schools prefer to keep it low-key. Arizona State held its spring game back on Feb. 28, while California went on March 16. USC’s game was on April 6 and drew some 2,000 spectators.

Utah held its spring game two weeks ago, marking the occasion by announcing a $17.5 million pledge by the Ken Garff family to renovate and expand Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Washington goes late

The Huskies, who won the Pac-12 title last season with a 10-3 victory over Utah in the conference championship before falling 28-23 to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, will hold their spring game Saturday. Colorado will, too, under new coach Mel Tucker.

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