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BY JASON VONDERSMITH/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Central Catholic keeps its string alive, but this time its NCAA Division I linebacker signee goes to USC

Of the 24 new Oregon football recruits, none could be more important than quarterback Tyler Shough.

The Ducks went 7-6 last season, losing four games by lopsided scores without an injured starting QB Justin Herbert. Then-freshman Braxton Burmeister tried hard in Herbert's absence, but the Ducks couldn't generate much of a passing game.

So, while Burmeister gained experience, the Ducks also went shopping for another quarterback and landed the 6-5, 200-pound Shough from Hamilton High in Chandler, Arizona. He was ranked as the top overall recruit in Arizona and fifth-best pro-style quarterback by recruiting service 247Sports, and Shough participated in the Elite 11 camp for the nation's best QB prospects. He threw 30 touchdowns with only five interceptions, and spurned offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Washington State to sign with the Ducks.

Shough graduated early from Hamilton High and showed up to enroll in Oregon in January. He already has made an impact, Ducks coach Mario Cristobal says.

"It's already evident that he's going to be a great football player and leader," Cristobal says. "Tremendous personality. Made of the right stuff."

Dick Baniszewski was Shough's coach at Hamilton High, and ...

"I've been coaching for 30 years and not come across a kid with that maturity," he says. "He gets it. He's cool in intense situations; he'd put his arm on my shouders and say, 'We got this.'

"This kid is not normal, in a good way. Cannon for an arm. Throws the deep ball better than any kid I've ever seen. He'll compete, I know that."

As a runner, "he's very fast, he runs really well," the coach adds. "We've run a lot of veer (offense), but we didn't run it with Tyler because we didn't have a backup as close to him. He's a deceivingly fast guy and incredibly strong kid. He's a prototype. ... He does so many things well. I could see him being 240 (pounds) and carrying it easy and being a Drew Bledsoe and Ben Roethlisberger. He's athletic."

But, Burmeister will get an opportunity to win the backup job. "I see big things for Braxton after spending a year of baptism by fire," Cristobal says.

• Of note, Shough is pronounced "Shuck." Says Baniszewski: "Great luck for the Ducks to get the Shough."

• Shough, running backs Travis Dye and Jamal Elliott and defensive backs Haki Woods, defensive backs Steve Stephens and Verone McKinley III — all December signees — all are enrolled.

• Cristobal, on the new receivers/tight end signed Wednesday:

Jalen Hall — "One of the better players in the country at the wide receiver position. Lot of range, speed, an explosive player. What stands out is his ability to make the contested catch."

Isaah Crocker — "He's a guy that stood out so much in camp for us. Explosive and dynamic playmaker."

J.J. Tucker — "He's another one we had our eye on for a long time. Another guy who makes explosive plays."

Tight end Spencer Webb — "Widely regarded as the best tight end on the West Coast and made his way to (being) one of the best tight ends in the country, we firmly believe that."

• Cristobal says he doesn't know if Miami transfer D.J. Johnson, a defensive end, will play right away. "He's disruptive, athletic, great pass rusher and run stopper," the coach says.

• It's size galore among Oregon's offensive line signees, including 6-7, 355 Justin Johnson and 6-5, 350 Penei Sewell, maybe the program's best recruit. He was the No. 1 recruit in Utah and No. 2 offensive guard, according to 247Sports.

Cristobal calls Johnson "a mountain of a man, and he's got a mountain of a heart."

On Sewell, the coach says: "It's a great example of the types of battles that Oregon is capable of winning. He is an ultimate difference-maker. A guy that along with Justin, Dawson (Jaramillo), Steven (Jones) and Chris (Randazzo), and guys who are here, they'll continue to help change what we're doing up front."

• Despite losing then-head coach Willie Taggart just before the December early signing period, Cristobal and the remaining staff helped salvage a 15-player signing list and then added a nine-player list on Wednesday.

Cristobal says the Oregon brand resonates with players and their families.

"The Oregon brand is extremely powerful," he says. "Players, people, fans of the sport, they love the 'O,' they love Nike."

NOTES

• Lost among the signees is Karsten Battles from San Antonio, Texas, the third-ranked long snapper in the country, according to 247Sports. Cristobal joked about meeting with boosters on signing day and being giddy about the 6-1, 240 Battles. ... Cristobal is talking up new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Feld, who has instituted a weight-lifting and conditioning regimen Cristobal and coach Nick Saban used at Alabama. ... Dye is the brother of UO linebacker Troy Dye. He ran for 2,383 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Norco High. Defensive lineman Andrew Faoliu is the brother of UO D-lineman Austin Faoliu.

•The Ducks lost out on both wide receiver prospect Devon Williams to USC on Wednesday and a local product who went to the Trojans — linebacker Eli'jah Winston from Central Catholic High.

Rams coach Steve Pyne says Winston took a trip to USC and then coaches made an in-home visit, and the player flipped his commitment from Oregon to USC just before signing day.

The Ducks clearly would have liked to add Winston, who would have joined his brother La'Mar in the linebacker corps.

"He's not quite Brennan Scarlett physical, but pretty close as far as athleticism and running ability and sense for the game," Pyne says. "He has a nose for playmaking. He's not always going to have 20 tackles in a game, but he's going to get a fumble recovery or a strip or make a big sack in the right moment."

La'Mar Winston "is leaner, more athletic. Eli'jah is 30-35 pounds heavier than La'Mar when he was here. They just have a different skill set."

• The Rams have now placed a player at the NCAA Division I level each year since 2006, the list including Alex Balducci, Scarlett, Ryan Nall, Cameron Scarlett, the Winstons and Brady Breeze.

"That streak's going to end next year, more than likely, but the next year (2020) will make up for it," says Pyne, who says the Rams' sophomore class has many standout players.

Pyne says he counted almost 40 former Central Catholic players who were playing either college ball or in the pros (as in Brennan Scarlett and NFL prospect Nall).

Cameron Scarlett, meanwhile, will continue to be the backup running back at Stanford, after Heisman Trophy finalist Bryce Love announced that he would be returning for his senior year.

"I think they'll increase his role to take the burden off Bryce," Pyne says. "Cameron will be a year older and faster. He was top-20 in the nation in kickoff returns.

"He and Bryce are good friends. He's excited for him to come back. How many running backs go to school and play behind Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love?"

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