By Steve Mims
EUGENE — Demetri Burch was an all-conference quarterback who ran for nearly 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns during his final two seasons at Apopka (Florida) High School.
Most of his recruiting interest came from college coaches who saw him play wide receiver in seven-on-seven camps.
Burch was listed as an athlete when he signed with Oregon last year, but expected to start his career at wide receiver. Yet when Willie Taggart set up a separate practice for newcomers during the first few days of fall camp, Burch was needed at quarterback.
He returned to wide receiver later in camp, but was back at quarterback and suited up for a few games when injuries to Justin Herbert and Taylor Alie left him as the backup to Braxton Burmeister.
When the Ducks limited Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate to 191 total yards in a 48-28 victory, some Oregon defenders claimed that Burch was more difficult to stop as Oregon’s scout-team quarterback than Tate was in the game.
“I knew I would be playing receiver, but then coach T, I guess he felt I was better at quarterback,” said Burch, who received a game ball from Taggart after the win over Arizona.
The 6-foot, 193-pound Burch never got in a game during a redshirt year and returns for his second season listed as a wide receiver with the ability to line up behind center if head coach Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo want to give a different look than the 6-6 Herbert.
“I’ve got a little ‘Wildcat,’ but mostly playing receiver,” he said. “Talking to coach Cristobal, he thinks I can do things out of the ‘Wildcat.’”
Burch has never been a full-time wide receiver, but last year provided his most experience at the position.
“I got better at route running and learning the game more from a receiver standpoint,” he said. “Being a quarterback, I would think like a quarterback.”
Burch is part of a young group of wide receivers competing for playing time on an inexperienced unit.
“There’s a good chance to play a lot,” he said.
Burch followed Taggart from Florida to Oregon along with receivers Daewood Davis and Darrian McNeal, whom he had known from various camps in high school. When Taggart left after one season, Burch considered leaving too.
“That was a thought, but in talking to coach Cristobal, when he stayed, that made it better,” Burch said.