EUGENE — Willie Taggart has until about 3:59 p.m. on Saturday to determine whether or not Justin Herbert is healthy enough to return to the lineup.
If the first-year coach already knows who will start at quarterback for Oregon against Arizona, Taggart’s not tipping his hand.
The Ducks (5-5, 2-5) play host to the surging Wildcats (7-3, 5-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Pac-12 Networks.
“He’s getting really close,” Taggart said of Herbert during his Monday news conference at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. “I guess we’ll see as the week goes on, get another X-ray and see where he is.
“Hopefully, he’s completely healed and ready to roll.”
Herbert suffered a fractured collarbone Sept. 30 during a victory over California. The Ducks have lost four of their past five games without the star sophomore.
Entering the bye week, Taggart said Herbert’s projected recovery time was between six and eight weeks. Saturday will mark seven weeks since the injury occurred as Herbert was rushing for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Golden Bears.
“If we leave it up to Justin he would have played about three weeks ago,” Taggart said. “That’s just the kind of young man he is. He’s such a competitor, just like Troy Dye. He loves to compete and help his teammates.”
Dye, Oregon’s standout linebacker, will be available to play against the Wildcats after nursing a sore Achilles’ tendon since the end of the loss at Washington.
That’s good news for defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who has to put together a game plan for Khalil Tate. The sophomore quarterback has led Arizona’s resurgence with 1,293 yards rushing, 998 yards passing and 19 total touchdowns.
“Pray,” Taggart joked when asked about defending Tate. “No one’s stopped him yet this year. He’s a heck of a talent, big-time football player, and he’s really good with the ball in his hands.
“Defensively, we’ve got to be disciplined and make sure we do a good job of wrapping up and getting to the ball.”
Arizona is 5-1 and averaging 46.5 points per game since coach Rich Rodriguez made Tate his starter.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for that player,” Oregon State safety Jalen Moore said after Tate ran for 206 of Arizona’s school-record 534 yards rushing in last Saturday’s 49-28 win over the Beavers.
BURMEISTER'S BATTLE: Oregon quarterback Braxton Burmeister was verbally committed to Arizona until flipping to the Ducks late in the process.
If Herbert isn’t cleared to play, the true freshman will remain in the spotlight opposite Tate.
“We haven’t even talked about that. We haven’t even brought that up since it happened,” Taggart said of Burmeister’s decision to play for him instead of Rodriguez. “Braxton and I have just talked about him and his development and trying to get better every single week. Don’t worry about the naysayers.”
Burmeister has passed for only 324 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions this season with five starts. He has also rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s just unfortunate that he was thrown in in that situation,” Taggart said of burning Burmeister’s redshirt after injuries to both Herbert and backup Taylor Alie against Cal. “But I think in the long run it’s going to help him tremendously getting that experience as he continues to grow and get ready. He’s going to be fine.”
Oregon also was able to add Sheldon High offensive lineman Cody Shear and wide receiver Darrian McNeal, two more players originally committed to Arizona, to the 2017 recruiting class.
Taggart says the recruiting battles won’t make the pregame chat or postgame handshake with Rodriguez uncomfortable.
“I don’t think you take it too personal,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to do it until the end and you never know what’s going to happen. These kids have choices and they have the right to do whatever they decide to do. I don’t necessarily like it at times but it is what it is. You have to be prepared for everything.
“I don’t think there’s any animosity or anything like that. I respect (Rodriguez) and I would say he respects me.”
CIVIL WAR TIME SET: Oregon’s regular-season finale against Oregon State on Nov. 25 at Autzen Stadium is scheduled for a 4 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2.
Earlier in the day, the women’s PK80 will be contested at Matthew Knight Arena with No. 1 UConn playing Michigan State at noon and No. 10 Oregon playing No. 21 Oklahoma at 2:30 p.m.
The Ducks had their eight-game winning streak in the Civil War end last season in Corvallis, which resulted in a 4-8 finish and the end of the Mark Helfrich era.