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McCormick reaches end of a long journey to playing time

November 1, 2017

Officially, it was a five-yard touchdown reception.

But the journey to the end zone for tight end Cam McCormick felt a lot longer.

McCormick went down with a season-ending injury two games into his senior season at Bend’s Summit High in 2015 and redshirted at Oregon in 2016.

In the first quarter of last Saturday’s 41-20 victory over Utah at Autzen Stadium, McCormick caught his first career touchdown pass for the Ducks.

“It was an awesome feeling to have,” McCormick said before Tuesday’s practice. “I was so hyped up, I didn’t know what to do. I was going crazy out there.”

Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland added a 22-yard touchdown reception on a pass from wide receiver Charles Nelson against the Utes.

“He’s grown a lot,” Breeland said of McCormick. “He’s become a lot more physical and more confident. It’s great to see that. … We push each other, we talk each other up, we have a great relationship.”

The scoring plays were nice rewards for two tight ends who helped pave the way for 347 rushing yards.

“I love Cam, I love all those guys,” offensive line coach Mario Cristobal said. “They’re hard workers. They looked at me like I was a three-eyed fish when we first got here and were throwing them into O-line drills and making them stick their face in these difficult blocking situations.

“They’re learning to be physical. We still have some work to do, but progress is being made.”

Last year McCormick and Breeland did their best to soak up information from seniors Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt.

“I just tried to follow them in the weight room,” McCormick said. “Johnny is disciplined in his technique, and his drive is something I kind of took after. He really wanted it, and if you want something you’ve just got to put your mind to it to achieve it.”

After the coaching change last December, McCormick was one of three Oregon players hospitalized with workout-related injuries.

Now, the 6-foot-4, 248-pound redshirt freshman is a healthy part of coach Willie Taggart’s offense.

“Tight end is critical in our offense,” Taggart said. “They’re an extension of our offensive line when it comes to the running game, they’re important to us in the pass game. It was good for us to get the ball to them in the pass game because they hadn’t been involved as much as I would like for them to be.”

Florida “false” news

Running back Tony Brooks-James, who is from Gainesville, Fla., said Taggart told the team at dinner on Monday night that any speculation about him leaving for Florida was “false.”

The Gators are searching for a new coach after parting ways with Jim McElwain on Sunday. Taggart is a Florida native who won 10 games last season at South Florida.

“I don’t like to be left out of the loop and things like that, so him telling the team up front is like, ‘OK, hat’s off to you,’?” Brooks-James said.

Practice notes

Justin Herbert practiced on Tuesday alongside the other quarterbacks. A little more than four weeks after suffering a fractured collarbone, the team’s star signal-caller gingerly went to the ground during a fumble-recovery drill and ran through the tackling dummy.

But Braxton Burmeister is still expected to start against No. 12 Washington on Saturday at Husky Stadium (7 p.m., Pac-12-Networks.

“I’m glad that it’s finally coming along for him,” McCormick said of Burmeister’s improved play against Utah. “We’re all working hard and that’s all that we can really do is keep working, just trust what the coaches are doing for us and hope for the best.”

Taj Griffin, who saw his first action at running back last week, was practicing at wide receiver.

Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @rgduckfootball . Email ryan.thorburn@registerguard.com .