With less than a week remaining before the Oregon Ducks take to Autzen Stadium for the Spring Game, one of if not THE biggest questions going in will be who takes over as starting running back for the departed Kenjon Barner? Running backs coach Gary Campbell seems to think that man is De’Anthony Thomas, as does DAT himself.
[gn_quote style=”1″]“De’Anthony (Thomas) is obviously our most experienced running back right now, and if Byron can step up and take on more carries and have De’Anthony still move in and out of that tazer position, so be it,” Campbell said. “But De’Anthony wants to play running back. I can tell he’s really excited about the fact he’s in there at that spot, and he feels like that’s his position. And as far as I’m concerned it is, unless we need him to do something else.”[/gn_quote]
Here’s how the depth at running back looks right now:
- De’Anthony Thomas
- Byron Marshall
- Thomas Tyner (incoming freshman not currently with team)
- Ayele Forde/Kenny Bassett
Thomas certainly brings the biggest name and most experience into the season, but the 5’9″ 176 lbs back from Crenshaw High School doesn’t seem to have the size to be an every down back like Barner and LaMichael James before him. The Ducks will look to use a “running back by committee” scheme next season, but it’s disappointing to think about how good the unit could have been.
Oregon’s 2010 recruiting class included three sensational running backs. There was Josh Huff (moved to wide receiver), Dontae Williams (transferred to San Diego State after a redshirt season) and lastly being consensus 5-star Lache Seastrunk.
Seastrunk (1,012 yards on 131 rushes, 7.7 YPC) had a monster season with Baylor last year, but really burst onto the season with a 185-yard performance against Kansas State to crush the Wildcats’ perfect season.
Seastrunk averaged 25.9 yards per game through the first seven games, and 138.6 per game for the last six. He even said this offseason that he expects to win the Heisman in 2013.
Another sensational running back back in Tra Carson from Texarkana, Tex. left the program for Texas A&M. Carson is sitting behind a stable of strong backs in College Station, but he is now able to play closer to home. Ultimately, Carson would have been behind Barner and Thomas on the bench for another season, and possibly longer behind Thomas.
DAT, who also signed with the Ducks in the class of 2011, and Carson would have made for a great “Thunder and Lighting” tandem. Both saw playing time right away, including action in the season opener against LSU.
Oregon’s lone running back recruit of the 2012 class was 4-star bruiser Byron Marshall. The 5’10” 210 lbs Marshall provides a literal sizable solution to the void left by Barner. With small backs like Thomas on the depth chart, Marshall can be a potential every-down-back or come in for goaline and big play situations. Last season he rushed 87 times for 447 yards and four touchdowns, with most of his time being with backup lineman and obvious running situations. Yet he was still able to put up strong numbers.
The last member to compete for the starting job will be Thomas Tyner, a 5-star all-American and one of two RB commitments to the class of 2013. Tyner is the only one of the potential starters not currently with the team. The senior from Aloha High School is finishing up his education in Beaverton and will join the team in the summer for camp.
Along with great power, Tyner has unbelievable speed. His unofficial 40-yard dash is 4.38 secs. To put that into context, the illustrious Thomas’ time was listed by Rivals as a 4.41 coming out of high school. That means Tyner might even be faster than the Black Momba!
So what have we learned from this?
I think we all knew that the transfers were going to catch up with the Ducks eventually, and now they have. With just one of the three still on the team (Seastrunk, Williams or Carson), Oregon would have little to no worries heading into the season. Oregon may be fine, but the numerous transfers will ultimately be a hinderance. Now, they’ll have to hope Thomas stays healthy, Marshall and the other reserves step up into bigger roles and that all-American recruit Tyner is all he’s claimed to be.