During the next few weeks, we’re going to go through Oregon’s roster, position by position, examining what talent was lost to graduation or the NFL and what that leaves the Ducks with in 2014.
The prolific run game takes center stage today.
Who was lost after the 2013 season: De'Anthony Thomas
Lost production: 96 carries, 594 yards, 8 touchdowns
Who’s back in 2014: junior Byron Marshall, sophomore Thomas Tyner, redshirt senior Ayele Forde, redshirt freshman Kani Benoit, redshirt sophomore Lane Roseberry, redshirt senior Kenny Bassett, redshirt sophomore J.J. Jones, sophomore Jake LaCoste, incoming freshman Tony James, incoming freshman Royce Freeman
Statistics of returning players: 350 carries, 2,046 yards, 23 touchdowns
Outlook: Worrying about the Oregon’s running back situation is a moo point. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter.
The Ducks seem to be able to turn out top back after top back with relatively seamless turnover. Yes, losing Thomas was a bit of a blow, but they’ll recover just fine and the spring more than proved that. The race looks like it will come down to Tyner and Marshall, but even past those two, there’s plenty to be excited about for the future.
Also, quarterback Marcus Mariota is back. Last season he was the second-leading rusher, carrying the ball 96 times for nine touchdowns and 715 yards. Jeff Lockie, who appears to be the default backup QB, also carried the ball five times with one score in 2013. The quarterbacks will continue to contribute to the run game, as will the occasional wide receiver.
It will be interesting to watch how the ball is distributed this season, especially early on, as Mariota gains more chemistry with his young receivers. He showed a lot of promise with WR Devon Allen this spring, but there’s a good chance that the Ducks could be run-heavy early (especially against Michigan State) as they get their feet wet.
But again, keep calm and carry on. Nothing to see here but what will likely be another very impressive rushing season from Oregon.
Other spring reviews: