When you think of elite running back schools, elite programs like USC, Auburn, Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma are some of the main ones that come to mind. It’s about time to throw the Ducks’ hat into the mix. Over the past decade, Oregon has had a string of running backs that match or beats nearly all of those aforementioned schools.
Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell is the most tenured coach in Ducks history and one of the most experienced coaches in all of college football. Coach Campbell enters his 30th season with the Ducks, an accomplishment that puts him in the ranks of greatest assistant coaches of all time. Campbell has spent more time with the Ducks concurrently than any active coach in division one football.
Eight of the top-10 career rushing leaders in Oregon history have played for Coach Cam. Some of Campbell’s elite protégés include LaMichael James, Derek Loville, Jonathan Stewart, Terrence Whitehead, Sean Burwell, Ricky Whittle, Jeremiah Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner and so many more.
The list is seemingly endless.
Over the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Campbell saw maybe his greatest stretch of runners. Oregon featured back-to-back-to-back seasons with Reuben Droughns, Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith carving apart Pac-10 defenses. All three would go on to play professionally.
Another strong string of running backs just saw their Oregon legacy come to an end. In 2009, Blount was primed for a monster senior season as the primary Oregon tailback, but was indefinitely suspended following one infamous punch. Oregon was forced to play two freshmen in James and Barner who both went on to light up the UO record books.
One aspect that makes Campbell such a beloved coach is his ability to connect with his players. When James was redshirting his first from Texarkana, Tex., he got incredibly home sick and packed his bags overnight ready to transfer. Campbell was able to encourage James to stick with the program and kept the greatest running back in school history from leaving. James and Campbell stick have a lasting friendship.
Campbell was a starting fullback during his playing days at UCLA. He started his career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater from 1976-78. He then went on to coach one season as an assistant at Pacific University before moving to Oregon in 1983. He has been with the program ever since.
Campbell will have a huge task this offseason replacing the departed Barner, but has a strong stable of backs to do it. Returning is do-it-all phenom De’Anthony Thomas and will be sophomore Byron Marshall. The two returning backs will also be joined by 5-star Thomas Tyner who will look to compete for the starting vacancy. Others battling for time will be Ayele Forde (who received a scholarship this offseason) and Kenny Bassett.