The Oregon Ducks are going to be an explosive offensive team once again in 2014 even with massive questions about the receiving corps heading into the season. The biggest reason for that is the return of an absolutely stacked backfield, led by Heisman Trophy contender Marcus Mariota. Oregon has developed a deadly running game in Eugene and while Mariota has thrived in that, the engine that will keep the Ducks’ offense rolling this season will be running back Byron Marshall.
As a sophomore in 2013, Marshall came into his own as a workhorse running back in Oregon’s up-tempo attack. He finished the year with 1,038 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, averaging a staggering 6.18 yards per carry. He was one of just four running backs in the Pac-12 to break the 1,000-yard mark and the only one to return for 2014. His numbers are even more impressive when you consider how crowded the Oregon backfield is as four players rushed for at least 500 yards last season and three ran for over 700 yards.
But despite the gaudy stats, Marshall has been a bit overlooked in his own backfield this offseason. Part of the reason is the hype surrounding Mariota and his dual-threat ability, which is well-deserved. The junior quarterback averaged 7.45 yards per carry last season as he rolled up 715 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground. But Marshall has also lost some spotlight to fellow running back Thomas Tyner, who is a special talent and recorded 711 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman last season with an identical 6.18 yards per carry average to Marshall.
That incredible depth, however, shouldn’t take away from Marshall who is an exceptional talent in his own right. His ability to step up and carry the load for the Oregon running game is a huge asset to the Ducks moving forward, especially as they hammer out the kinks in their passing game this fall. Byron Marshall is arguably the best running back in the Pac-12 this season and is still the man in the Oregon backfield going forward.