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Oregon's Justin Herbert adjusting to life as the Pac-12's baby-faced QB

EUGENE, Ore. -- The shaving jokes just won't stop. They keep coming from older teammates and Oregon quarterback coach David Yost.

Freshman quarterback Justin Herbert is constantly being asked about his shaving routine because, yes, his baby face just looks that smooth. Of late, it's one of the few things about Herbert that his teammates can poke fun at.

Herbert has taken it in stride. The recently turned 18-year-old doesn't shave yet and is fine with that, with the recent exception of "No-Shave November," a beard-growing campaign to raise cancer awareness.

"The No-Shave November -- everyone has full-grown beards," Herbert said. "I feel a little left out."

Herbert's life this fall has been a balance between the 18-year-old Herbert, who is shocked he's in this position, and the starting quarterback who's being counted on as the future of Oregon's program.

Monday through Friday he's in class with other freshmen, some of whom don't shave. On Saturdays he's running away from soon-to-be NFL-drafted defensive linemen.

He sees that people are starting to buy No. 10 jerseys to wear to games to support him but admits he has a No. 21 jersey back at home -- just a two-mile walk from the stadium -- that his family bought to support running back Royce Freeman.

"I was big fans of [the Ducks]," Herbert said. "Now I'm here with them. It reminds me of how young I am."

Herbert is well aware of the fact that he and his baby face have arrived on the college football scene a few years early.

Most fans came into this season most excited about more-highly heralded 2016 quarterback signee Terry Wilson Jr. or early enrollee Dakota Prukop and looked at Herbert as a nice local pick-up. He had played high school football at Eugene's Sheldon High School but missed his junior season due to a broken leg. He never played 7-on-7 since he was three-sport athlete and didn't enroll early because he wanted to finish out his high school basketball and baseball seasons.

This fall Herbert entered camp as the No. 4 quarterback on Oregon's depth chart.

"I was content being there," Herbert admits.

But he impressed during fall camp. Right before the season-opening depth chart came out, Yost called Herbert into his office. Herbert assumed the conversation would be about redshirting; instead, he was told he'd be Prukop's backup.

As the season went on Herbert began picking up more reps in practice but found ways to keep the normalcy of his 18-year-old life. His conversations with his parents and brothers avoided Oregon football and only involved Sheldon football or his college classes. He began returning to his parents' house on Sunday nights to watch Star Wars movies and have home-cooked meals.

On the Sunday after the Washington State game, as he was sitting in his apartment on campus, his phone rang with Prukop's ID.

"It hit me pretty hard," Herbert said. "He told me I was going to be the starter. ... He told me he wanted to see me succeed and he wasn't going to have any hard feelings about it."

Yost called Herbert into his office again -- this time, Herbert wasn't caught off-guard -- to tell him that he had been impressed with how he had progressed through fall camp. His first start would come against a Washington defense that ranked near the top of almost every defensive category in FBS.

Herbert threw an interception on his first pass. Later that game, on the same route, he hit his receiver for a first down. That is how the season has gone for Herbert -- he has made mistakes but has also shown that he quickly learns from them.

"For the quarterback ... you have to have instant, next-play mentality with total confidence," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "He usually has good answers for everything. You want to be able to be able to do that with your quarterback to have him come off and regurgitate the plays back to you, exactly what happened."

Slowly, Herbert has gained recognition around the conference for his play and has already been named a Pac-12 player of the week. On campus, he's less recognizable. He and his friends have instituted a two-piece-of-Oregon-clothing maximum rule, meaning he's never geared up from head to toe, leaving him relatively inconspicuous to his classmates.

He's just another student in 200-level classes, trying to wade through math, biology and sociology. In Yost's quarterback class, he wavers between 101 and 400 on different concepts and plays, Yost said.

It's a strange balancing act for a freshman who had no expectation to be here right now but, little-by-little, he's making it more routine. With one game to go in the season, he enters as a near veteran, a player with six starts under his belt and bright future ahead of him.

He hopes seasons from here on out involve more completions and wins, bowl berths and conference titles. And yes, maybe even at some point he'll be able partake in No-Shave November.