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.