Some time around 9 PM on January 3, All-American running back Kenjon Barner will walk off the field as an Oregon Duck for the final time. After what’s sure to be an exhilarating Fiesta Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats, it’ll be fair for Ducks fans to take a moment to reflect on Barner’s decorated career.

But don’t take too long, Oregon faithful. Just a day later, the future of the Ducks’ backfield will be on national display. Oh, and the day after that, too.

Oregon’s Kenjon Barner rushes for a touchdown against Fresno State (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Let’s take a step back. In-house, the Ducks have groomed a pair of more-than-capable runners with entirely different styles. Of course, there’s De’Anthony Thomas, the lightning-quick hybrid who experienced some growing pains this season after tearing apart opposing defenses for 1200 yards from scrimmage on just 101 touches his freshman year. Though the “Black Momba” has collected 1,071 more yards on 131 touches in 2012, he was often stifled running the ball in Pac-12 play, held below 50 yards rushing in all but three conference games.

That’s not to say Crenshaw’s finest was a non-factor in these cases. Oftentimes, his dynamic play-making ability forced defenses to hone in on him, creating running lanes for Barner, quarterback Marcus Mariota, and even freshman running back Byron Marshall.

So, let’s talk about Marshall. Though he saw a good chunk of his playing time after Oregon opened up big leads, the Valley Christian (CA) product displayed tough running between the tackles and the ability to fight for extra yardage despite working primarily with a second-unit offensive line. Though Marshall is not a burner like Thomas, his size and power provides a ying to De’Anthony’s yang.

Well, Dontre Wilson’s yang too. And Thomas Tyner’s. That’s because in 2013, the Ducks will welcome not one, but two ultra-fast freshman running backs. Wilson, ranked by Rivals as the #6 All-Purpose Back in the country, boasts a listed 40-yard dash time of 4.40 – on par with that of Thomas.

Dontre Wilson throws up the “O” with a Ducks hat on

Fast enough? Not if you’re Tyner, ranked by Rivals as the #4 Running Back in the country, has run a 4.30 40, according to 247sports. Moreover, the Aloha (OR) athlete is a nationally regarded sprinter, having run a 10.38 100-meter dash during his junior year. Wilson, no slouch of an athlete in his own right, runs track too.

If either Wilson or Tyner hopes to get carries over Thomas or Marshall, they’ll have to be in game shape – and not just any game shape, but the kind of game shape to thrive within the Ducks’ patented high-octane attack. Wilson, a DeSoto (TX) product, isn’t fazed.

“We pretty much run the same offense here, so I’ll be there and I’ll be already equipped to it,” he said in an online feature by Legacy Sports Network.

Wilson and Tyner represent differing archetypes when it comes to top recruits. Whereas Wilson has proved himself against staunch competition in the talent hotbed of Texas, Tyner’s competition has been seen as lesser in the national eye – Oregon not exactly being known for its high school football.

On September 14, Tyner showed just how much he stood above the competition, gathering an absurd 643 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, both Oregon state records, in Aloha’s 84-63 victory over Lakeridge.

http://youtu.be/LVPERyFq2R8

The Pac-12, of course, is a whole different story. There’s always the possibility Tyner or Wilson could redshirt, and given the Ducks’ depth at running back, head coach Chip Kelly (or offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, or whoever else may be at the helm should Kelly bolt to the NFL) will have to get creative to integrate both freshmen into the offense. Wilson sounds ready to be used in a variety of fashions.

“If I make it to the NFL, I’m not going to play running back,” Wilson told Legacy Sports Network. “I’ll probably just be a slot receiver or something like that.”

Because Wilson figures into a De’Anthony Thomas-type role in the offense, he seems a more likely candidate to redshirt than Tyner. If that’s the case, expect Tyner and Marshall to split carries while Thomas continues to see snaps both from the slot and the backfield.

Oregon native Thomas Tyner could be Oregon’s starting running back as a freshman. The last Duck to do that was LaMichael James.

Though it won’t be until at least next August that we’ll see Tyner and Wilson in green and yellow, a first live look at both recruits is just around the corner. At 2 PM Pacific Time on January 4, Wilson will compete in the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the game will be televised on ESPN. At 10 AM PT on January 5, Tyner will take part in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, which will be televised on NBC.

Can’t wait to get a peak at the future of the Oregon backfield? As a somewhat wise man once said, “Not so fast, my friend.” On January 3, Ducks fans will have the opportunity to take in the present – Kenjon Barner’s last hurrah as a Duck. In this holiday season, there may be no greater gift.