Every year there are question marks.
Around the league and from the keyboards of the pundits and pessimists, the anti-Duck venom spews in three main areas: drop off because of a new head coach, loss of three key leaders at linebacker, and uncertainty at running back.
Just suppose the Webfoots nabbed a transfer at the last minute, a guy who was the #4 running back in the country in the 2012 recruiting class, a 4-star prospect with 10.6 speed in the 100 and a 22.2 in the 200. He busted through defenses for 9.38 yards a carry as a senior, earning a spot in the Army All-America Game. One service rated him the 48th best player in the entire nation.
At 5-11, 201 lbs, he's fast, strong and powerful, able to run inside or outside, a fierce competitor whose parents were both college athletes and two older siblings were starters at rival PAC-12 schools in football and track.
Except, the Ducks already have that guy. Meet Byron Marshall.
Sometimes in the rush to anticipate what's shiny and new, fans forget the guys who've been patiently working and waiting their turn in the program. The same thing is happening at linebacker, where everyone is all aglitter about Torrodney Prevot and Joe Walker. Both could contribute this year, but Tyson Coleman, Derrick Malone, Brett Bafaro and Rodney Hardrick have two solid years of preparation behind them, and the year they came out as preps, THEY were the highly touted All Stars and record setters.
With Marshall, the assumption by many is that somehow he lacks the flash to be effective as Oregon's lead back. After LMJ and Kenjon Barner, there's concern the running game will decline without their speed and breakaway ability.
Uh, Marshall's been hand-timed at 4.38 in the 40. His 10.6 100 is a tenth faster than anything Kenjon Barner ran as a member of the National Champion Oregon track team.
(Highlights courtesy of Mike Wines, Oregon Duck Soup)
Listed at 5-10, 201 by the Ducks, he's an inch taller and five pounds bigger than James or Barner, with the leg drive and cutting ability to make tough yards and move the pile. In his highlight tape, watch how Marshall finishes runs: he's driving forward, stretching for extra yards, often delivering the blow. He runs with urgency and purpose, good balance, consistently getting what's there and making positive plays.
From Valley Christian of San Jose, where his mother is the track coach, Oregon's #9 doesn't have the world class quicks of Thomas Tyner or De'Anthony Thomas, but he's stronger. Byron's thrown up 310 lbs. on the bench press and a reported 510 in the squat. according to scout.com. His father is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where he was a track and basketball star, currently the strength and conditioning coach at Santa Clara University. Brother Cameron started two years at running back for Arizona State, while older sister Dahlys ran track at the University of Arizona, with a top time of 13.66 in the 100 meter hurdles.
The point is, Byron's been exposed to competition and great training since he was a young boy. The duel for the starting spot at tailback this fall is something he relishes, putting in his work in several areas to get ready. This spring he told Adam Jude, then of the Oregonian, what his priorities were:
...ball security, conditioning, eat right off the field, remembering the plays, playing faster
Marshall got some valuable experience as a freshman. He played in 10 of the Ducks' 13 games, carrying the ball 87 times for 447 yards, a 5.1 yard average. In the spring game he reeled off runs of 25 and 17 yards. He looked solid, breaking tackles and driving up field, with six carries for 60 yards on his abbreviated day.
Last fall as a true freshman he had long runs of 32, 27, 25, 17, 17 yards, scoring four times. He got his most extended work against Tennessee Tech in game 3, the leading rusher off the bench in a blowout, 13 carries for 125 yards. He had 8 totes, 59 yards and a touchdown against Washington, 12 and 67 versus Colorado.
Marshall displayed soft hands out of the backfield as a prep, catching 11 passes for 331 yards as a sophomore, also returning punts and kickoffs.
The excitement over De'Anthony Thomas and Thomas Tyner is justified and understandable. Both are world class athletes and potential Heisman winners and prospective NFL stars. But Marshall is no slouch. He's solid and reliable, as fast or faster than Barner, Rueben Droughns, LeGarrette Blount or Terrence Whitehead, backs who racked up a lot of yards in green and yellow. Byron didn't lose a fumble in his 88 touches last year, picked his holes well, ran upfield rather than danced. Often he entered games with the Ducks holding a big lead and defenses putting 8 in the box, knowing the Ducks were unlikely to pass. Against stacked defenses with the number two line, Marshall got valuable experience and ran creditably.
One important point about the Oregon system is that the role of the running back is different than what many people perceive. With zone blocking and a very disciplined wide receiver corps, the main thing the Ducks need from a running back is not raw speed but good vision and patience. Watch back the tape of Kenjon Barner's record setting day against USC, 321 yards and 5 touchdowns. The blocking is so good Barner isn't even touched as he picks his way upfield, often getting 10 and 15 yards before contact. The o-linemen, tight end Colt Lyerla and the wide receivers have defenders walled off at the first and second level. At times Barner looks like Michael Jordan driving the lane, soaring uncontested behind a wall of perfect picks.
On a team that blocks like this, the tailback has to recognize where the creases are and be decisive, make one cut and go, something position coach Gary Campbell stresses every day. The running backs are important, but the drive train of Oregon's fearsome offense is Hroniss Grasu, Tyler Johnstone, Jake Fisher, Lyerla, Keanon Lowe and Josh Huff. They do their jobs so effectively the ball carrier is almost plug-and-play. Some people expressed the same doubts last July that Barner could be an every-down back. They were wrong, by 1767 yards.
Marshall cuts well and uses his blockers. He's disciplined and runs with great effort, toughness and desire. The extended playing time and a year of practice has given him a solid understanding of what the Ducks are trying to do offensively and what his role is as the ball carrier. Seeing the holes, making the right reads will allow Marshall to play faster as a sophomore.
Also, understanding competition and the value of being underestimated, he might surprise as Oregon's lead tailback this season. He'll be a workhorse who will do exactly what Gary Campbell tells him. He has toughness and fire. And for the last nine months, he has had the great advantage of having everybody tell him about the other guy and what he can't do.
Just watch. With Marcus Mariota's passing arm and quick feet tormenting defensive coordinators, a solid, reliable tailback who focuses on ball security, eating right, remembering the plays and being faster might be exactly what the Ducks need in 2013.
I can see Marshall having 200-220 carries, DAT at about 120, Tyner at 120. The main thing is hopefully MM only has about 50-60 rushing attempts like Darron did his last year. 375-400 attempts. Just assuming the team runs at the same pace as last year, and about the same amount of blow-outs where these players may be taken out after half time. I think the main thing that will change this year is with Marshal & Tyner we will have more straight down your throat, between the tackles, pick up those two yards, options. Yes LMJ and Barner could do it even worse they would turn them into 20+ yard gains, but like you mentioned in your article The defense can stack the box and know the run is coming and I wont have to cross my fingers if they give the ball to Marshal. With that said once a couple of those plays are on tape the rest of the offense is so much harder to defend. Stanford wont be able to just protect the edges and rush from the outside.
I already have bets Marshal may be the highest drafted RB from Oregon. (excluding Bobby Moore because he was drafted to be WR). He's about 20 lbs lighter than Stewart, similar build, almost benches and squats what Stewart did. I remember the hype about Oregon getting 5 star #1 rated Jonathan Stewart, I believe Marshal is scary similar, but played against better talent in San Jose, CA than Stewart did in Lacey, WA. Different offenses but Marshal already has better stats on the field, I don't expect Marshal to get 280 carries but I still believe he'll finish his Oregon carrier with better stats.
I wanted to remind you that Marshall is one of the few players to play successfully as a skill player as a true Freshman. How that has helped or hurt his development is up to the observer.
My question would be today will he get the needed snaps and carries in the first three games of the season to be ready for conference play; remember he is entering this season with just a little more experience than LMJ did when he was thrusted into the line up as a starter second game of the season LMJ Red-shirt Freshman year.
Food for thought.
It honestly is such a great problem to have as a Die Hard Duck fan. I think most fans know what we have in Marshall is special. And I also believe that everybody is excited to see what Tyner can do as well (something along the lines of 10 TD's in a game will do that..) Add in the Fancypants Player of the Year in DeAnthony Thomas and possible Heisman winner in Mariota, Marshall and Tyner should both have great years. I anticipate the Tyner sees the field in the same role that Marshall had last year, and probably even a little more. But I fully expect 1000+ yards from our new Feature back Byron Marshall in 2013.
Great insight... I'm glad that tere are others who saw what I saw in Byron. At the end of the day he will be the featured back that will be able to do it all out of the backfield. (tough inside, breakaway speed, blocking ability, and reciever)
BM is finally getting his shot at the big time. I hope he blows everybody's fluorescent socks off. He has the speed. strength and head to excel. If he can handle being in the spotlight and if he holds onto the ball, BM will be a star.
I have been waiting on a story like this after the multiple Tyner write- ups. Marshall is a special talent and I would not be surprised one bit if he surpasses 1,200 yards and is our leading rusher at RB. If we didnt have DAT or Tyner to share his carries with I could see Marshall putting up similar numbers to KB and LMJ. I am really pulling for this young man since I saw his great attitude on some of his HS interviews. I do recall that Ronnie Lott who was a scout for HS players on the west coast and he stated that Marshall was the best RB in the western half of the Unites States and whatever team gets him has a special player. Well people need to be reminded of how good he is before we all jump on the Tyner Bandwagon.
I love this kids work ethic and I've heard he's a gym rat and really takes his lifting and diet seriously. He's also got a great head on his shoulders and just wants to learn. I'm rooting for him even if he has to split carries with DAT at times, he's a nice change of pace back because he can bang between tackles a little more than DAT and most likely Tyner because he was never tackled in high school. This stable of backs should have an amazing year and I would love to see Byron make that leap this year and become our go to guy on 3rd.
Couldn't agree more. Byron impressed me last year with his burst through the hole, toughness and fluid running style. I was surprised when I went back and looked at his sprint times, as there seemed to be a little knock on his speed when being compared to LMJ and Kenjon. I was delighted to see that isn't true. I love this kid's desire and attitude, not to mention his pedigree. Thanks again Dale for a thoughtful and insightful post.
@zaneandersson Zane, welcome. That's a thoughtful break down on the distribution, and an interesting comparison with Stewart. Comparisons are always tricky (two things are always more different than they are alike) but good point about the strength numbers. Marshall should pattern his game after Walter Payton, Tyner after DeMarco Murray.
If Oregon succeeds in getting the distribution you sketched out, they'll have a good chance of keeping these three healthy and getting balance and variety in the attack. And, as you pointed out, they'll give teams like Stanford more to account for.
@jda97302 Good point about Marshall's experience, and it's got to help him as he takes a bigger role this season. Very confident that Campbell will bring all the running backs along very well; the soft early schedule gives him an opportunity to work all of them in.
Ducks are blessed too to have some terrific athletes who would make great emergency running backs. Josh Huff, Colt Lyerla and Bralon Addison could very capably carry the football if the Ducks got short, and may even do so in spots this year regardless. So the outlook is far stronger and deeper than the critics suggest.
@Mahunashizzle It IS a great problem to have, and the distribution you suggest seems very sound. Marshall the workhorse, Thomas the breakaway threat, Tyner in development and relief. A 1000 yard season from Byron would be a great foundation for a tremendously varied and exciting offense, and he definitely has the talent to achieve that goal.
@LarryBaker Thanks Larry. The tough inside is the key--it gives balance to the Oregon attack; it's the staple that makes everything else go. He drives very hard inside and will be very productive.
@duckified Thanks for reading and commenting--Marshall has a good work ethic and a great opportunity. If he builds on his solid freshman year, he will be a key component of the most exciting offense in college football this fall. Love his tenacity at the goal line.
@RaymondLaw1 I share your enthusiasm for BM. I believe this will be his breakout year.
@RaymondLaw1 Thanks for reading and commenting, Raymond. Marshall is a tough, hard runner with a big upside--it'd take about 220 carries to get 1200 yards, but even if he falls short of that, Byron is a strong candidate to help the Ducks win a lot of games in 2013.
There's a wonderful diversity of weapons in this offense with Mariota, DAT, Marshall, Huff, Lyerla, Lowe, and Addison. Add younger players like B.J. Kelley, Chance Allen, Devon Allen and Darren Carrington and it's possible the Ducks could be even more explosive (and undefeated) this season. It's a great time to be a Duck, particularly after they skated by the NCAA.
@goducks58 Michael, Scott thank you very much. Marshall's a very solid back with a year experience. He runs hard and takes care of the football. A lot of people are seriously undervaluing his potential in the Duck running back rotation. As MT pointed out, he has good skills and great work habits.
@Dale Newton @Mahunashizzle While Thomas showed during the Civil War last year that he can handle more carries, I think it would be a mistake to give him the load that Kenjon carried last year. He is by no means a weak back or anything like that, I just think the Marshall has the better build to carry the Majority of the load while Thomas continues to be used in every which way like he has been the past two years. He's a great receiver and throwing him the ball is probably the easiest way to get him into space where he can be most effective.
@Dale Newton I too am excited about Byron, he looked great in the spring game and now has a year under his belt. I liked Kenjon but he was overmatched vs. LSU for instance, and Stanford shut him down last November. He could light up lesser Pac-12 teams thanks to our scheme, but he wasn't much of a threat against a top defensive line imo. (LSU, Stanford, Auburn, Cal) Hopefully Byron's size and Tyner's speed is a nice 1,2 punch.
Good point DN, about Byron taking care of the ball that's what stuck out to me most. His td run at the goal line last year was special when he carried multiple defenders for 6...his breakout moment
Roughly 7 weeks till kickoff... feed us more, Dale!
@Dale Newton @duckified @Mahunashizzle I love guys like Jackson, Dargan, and Ifo because they exude confidence but not in a cocky way. And they don't take it for granted, that is why, in my opinion they have been so successful. They know that in order for their success to stick around they must work for it, and keep their heads in the right place. I like what you said about the recruiting, Dale. The coaches have seemingly learned their lesson to steer clear of talented players with issues, Cliff Harris being a prime example. These coaches know that recruits that have high quality athleticism as well has professional, workman like attitudes are the ones that won't take their success as a reward, but more as a reminder of what they can accomplish through hard work.
@duckified @Dale Newton @Mahunashizzle Mike does a great job. The video snippets are informative, and you can get the best in Duck news at a glance. Great way to get to know the players and hear what the coaches are saying unfiltered.
Amazing too the dedication Mike has. He grinds. Posts every day, even sets up some recaps and highlights for times he goes on vacation. It's a true labor of love at Oregon Duck Soup, http://winesfamily.blogspot.com/.
@duckified @Dale Newton @Mahunashizzle Agree. You listen to young men like Brian Jackson talk about his values and goals and commitment to his teammates and you can't help but like the young man and root for him.
They have a terrific group that's doing it the right way, contributing in the community and represents the university extremely well. Almost to a man they are poised, well-spoken and solid in character and effort.
This team is loaded with outstanding leaders. It's a testimony to the care the Oregon staff takes in the recruiting process, and to the families of these athletes.
@Dale Newton @duckified @Mahunashizzle What a great bunch of men we have on the team. I remember when we all cringed throughout the summer, hoping not to see the team members in the headlines, doing dumb things that would get them disqualified to play. I think we won't have have to worry about that this summer. It all starts in the head and it looks like this year's team has their heads on straight.
@duckified @Dale Newton @Mahunashizzle Mike Wines has it, as always http://winesfamily.blogspot.com/2013/07/morning-mud-bonus-video.html.
@Dale Newton @Mahunashizzle In recent years few schools have had the success that Oregon has had in their weight room development in my opinion. Success stories like LMJ and Kenjon are great examples of how much the Duck players have benefited from a great workout program and a great workout coach. Darron Thomas was extremely thin coming in as a true freshman and when I saw him in Person against Boise State his freshman year I thought we could see something gruesome. Fast forward to his final year in Eugene, he looked every bit as big as almost any QB in the country.
I think with the added strength and athleticism in addition to the overall command of the offense that Mariota has, this could be one of the best seasons an Oregon QB has ever had.
@Mahunashizzle @Dale Newton I like your thinking on that, and I have the sense from their interviews that Coaches Campbell and Helfrich agree with you. The Civil War is a great example of how effective DAT can be running the football, but he is best used like SC used to use Reggie Bush: move him around, keep the defense guessing and over-adjusting, get him in open space.
Every running back runs a risk playing a collision sport, but Marshall is definitely built for more durability.
By the way, did you see the interviews from summer workouts? Most of the answers are boiler plate (just tryna help the team, get better, help the younger guys) but the takeaway for me was observing the shoulders of Marcus Mariota, DAT and Brian Jackson--they all have noticeably thicker, sloped deltoids, the sign of some serious work in the weight room. They each look appreciably stronger (not muscle-bound, but fit and strong), and that's a good thing.