Oregon Football: Previewing the running back position

Byron MarshallHeaded into the 2014 season the Oregon football team has a stock pile of talented running backs. De’Anthony Thomas left for the NFL draft after this season, but that leaves room for Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner to step up and take on more carries, not to mention the addition of incoming players who can also contribute.

Byron Marshall will likely be the starter when the season begins as he took the majority of the carries last season. However, if Thomas Tyner starts to get rolling and make big plays a switch on the depth chart is possible. This year either guy could start for the Ducks and both will certainly get carries as Oregon rotates bodies in frequently to remain fresh. The Ducks could see two running backs with over 1000 yards, especially now that the wide receiver position is unproven, but it’s unclear as to whom the true number one option will be. It seems there will be more of a 1a 1b situation, dont be surprised if there are multiple games with both Marshall and Tyner run for over 100 yards.

With Marshall being the “starter”, Tyner now has potential to play in Marshall’s former role as the reserve back. Tyner showed extreme potential last season playing in the number three role when De’Anthony Thomas was healthy. Tyner has more size and speed than any other running back on the Oregon roster, and should improve from his solid freshman campaign. If Tyner gets rolling early on, he could easily take over the number 1 spot on the depth chart due to his combination of size and speed.

It’s clear to Duck fans that Marshall and Tyner will be the first two options in the running game and will see the majority of the carries. Both are returning players who put up numbers last season. But Oregon can never have enough weapons in the backfield. This year the Ducks managed to land two good running  backs during recruiting – Royce Freeman (#10 RB) and Tony James (#14 RB). Freeman is the bigger of the two backs weighing around 220 pounds, while Tony James is compared to De’Anthony Thomas because of his speed. In recent years, the Ducks have played freshman running backs often. De’Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner all saw playing time during their freshman years and all three made an impact. It is unclear as to which freshman will see the playing time because neither has arrived on campus yet. Also, it is likely that the other will redshirt this upcoming season unless the Ducks decide to go four deep at the running back position.

To conclude, the Oregon Ducks will be deep at the running back position with an ability to easily go three deep in the backfield. Marshall and Tyner will lead the ground and see the majority of the carries, but expect at least one of the freshman mentioned to see solid playing time as well.


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  • Captain

    I just don’t get why no one seems to recall that the Ducks signed another RB last year who also happened to have a pretty good showing in the Spring Game. No, he wasn’t a huge “star” or “ranked” guy coming out of high school, but neither was LaMichael James, Kenyon Barner, or a multitude of others. I would caution people to not overlook Kani Benoit. You have to remember, he has a year of experience in the system, and didn’t exactly appear to be lost in the shadows in his only public showing so far. I would venture to bet he sees the field more than possibly Royce Freeman, who has yet to even show up on campus.

    • Nik Brownlee

      I would love to see Kani Benoit get reps during the season. He’s a bug body guy that can give us some added depth. However, in recent years the Ducks have had tendencies to go with one of the “star” recruits as true freshman. De’Anthony, Byron, and Tyner all saw high reps during their true freshman years. That’s why I think they will be more inclined to go with the freshman Freeman or James. Wouldn’t be surprised if Beniot saw the field this season, just in more of a spell role late in games if the Ducks are up big.