This time of year all the headlines are about the new players and National Signing Day, but the reason the Ducks are among the contenders for the first FBS football playoff is because of the players who are coming back.
Byron Marshall rushed for over a thousand yards as a sophomore, ably stepping into the role of lead running back after Kenjon Barner graduated to the NFL. He overcame pessimism and a late-season injury to achieve the milestone, and along the way, he showed himself to be be a tough, consistent, determined runner who took good care of the football and used his blocks effectively.
Marshall plan: Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner get the ooos and aaahhs, but Byron Marshall was the steady, capable bread-and-butter of the Oregon attack in 2013, shown here driving for yards against Utah (Scott Olmos, USA Today Sports Images).
In one stretch at mid-season, Marshall paced the Ducks with five straight 100-yard games, including 19 for 106 and two touchdowns against Washington, 21 for a season-high 192 and 3 scores against Washington State, and 19 for 133 and 3 more tds against UCLA.
Marshall busted loose for a career-long 49-yard touchdown run in the opener against Nichols State, on his way to 124 yards on just 8 carries.
He didn't really become the starter until De'Anthony Thomas went down with an injury on the opening kickoff against California, but he responded in that game with 19 carries for 130 yards and two tds off the bench.
Built for durability at 5-10, 201, Marshall is quick enough with 10.67 speed in the 100 meters, electronic 4.77 in the 40. He's also strong, powering up 455 in the squat during winter testing in 2012.
Marshall was a 4-star player coming out of high school, rated the best running back prospect in the West while prepping at Valley Christian High in San Jose.
Right before the Alamo Bowl, All-conference center Hroniss Grasu told Beth Mannion of the Oregon Daily Emerald, “Even though he is a second year sophomore he is a leader on this team,” Grasu said. “He is a guy we all look up to and he brings some really great energy on the field and I am really excited to have him back."
Like many young running backs, Marshall struggled early with dancing in the hole, but he's learned to take what's there and drive forward. As a freshman in 2012, he lost just four yards on his final 63 carries. That's an important stat. Negative plays are drive-killers, particularly for spread teams.
Does it really matter if Tyner or Marshall becomes the "starter"? Our team gets so many reps in that they will have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves. Tyner is definitely a beast, but I think Marshall really stepped up last year more then most may have expected (myself included).
Either way, they will both get plenty of playing time on this team, being the starter on the Ducks is kind of like being the first 1 to run in a relay race, you may run first but everyone will make an impact.
Marshall is a solid back, but the least talented to start for Oregon for nearly a decade. Baring injuries he should be supplanted quickly by Tyner or one of the new backs in Freeman or James.
He just doesn't have the "it" factor Duck fans are used to seeing. He benefited from a depleted roster due to transfers, and had nobody with any experience to compete for the job last year. Good back, but low ceiling.
Yea have to pile on the comments regarding BM. He's a nice back we definitely needed his production but he runs a 4.8!! Thomas should start Day 1 if healthy, another year in the system and it's a run...away :) Due to TT's past it's nice to have Byron especially in a long season. DAT was never a back. Royce will come in from the beginning a lot like Myles Jack. He will see time in the blowouts aka every game except MSU. Rolls Royce is by far our biggest recruit thus far. Two notes on Juju....the first is that he's said SC is his ''dream school'' I've heard it from his mouth. However that was in the Fall, DAT and Budda said the same things about their 'dream schools'.....secondly I've heard that Juju gave a 'Go Ducks' after a recent speech to his team. :)
sorry, rating services are correct. Marshall isn't a number one back. when counted on in big games and important stretches, Marshall did not deliver. he piled those stats up when it didn't matter. Ducks will be a better running team with Tyner at the helm. DAT leaving will help too.
Thomas Tyner will win the starting job and RUN with it, no pun intended, He's the type of player that will help the Ducks in just his 2nd season to finally reach their Goals of winning that National Championship that has ELUDED them the last 4 years. Freeman will come in and be the 2nd back and people shouldn't be surprised by this because he's that good and doesn't go down with that 1st initial contact, and no offense to Marshall but he does not have that it FACTOR that Tyner and Freeman have. He runs too TIMID, and as far as DAT was ever concerned, he shouldn't of ever been playing RB, He strictly should of fielded Kickoff's and Punts and played WR full time, reverses whatever but RB was not his position, and they really wasted a real good offensive weapon and even though he did have fumble problems at the worst times he was definetely not used correctly. Tommorrow will be another EPIC Recruiting Victory after Juju Smith indeed becomes a DUCK.
Byron Marshall is still the starter for the Ducks imho. Fairly mediocre line play (for Oregon) only allowed him to get a 1000 yard season in 2013. If he had had the same line play as LMJ or KB it could easily have been 1500. Tyner is a huge talent as is Royce Freeman. But, so is Byron Marshall! The Ducks are blessed with possibly the three best rb's on the West Coast if not the rest of the country. If the oline can come around this year Oregon might be a run first team again if the ocoord can remember to call running plays once in a while.
Where would we have been in 2013 without Byron Marshall? He absolutely stepped up to the plate with everyone praising DAT and then Tyner, Byron seemed to take it all in stride and simply performed and performed well. This year it will be head to head with Thomas Tyner and I expect Byron to perform very well and be the starter.
@MichaelGiambattista MG, good to hear from you. Interesting that last season DAT, Tyner and Marshall had an identical yards per carry average, 6.2.
@lexusduck Marshall isn't as explosively fast as Tyner, but he was effective for the Ducks last year and helped them win games. Very high on Freeman and believe he will contribute significantly as a freshman--Gary Campbell has always been good at bringing running backs along and managing a rotation. Smith's much-anticipated announcement is a game-changer, and if he does decide for the Ducks, he'll be an impact wide receiver, even as a true freshman, I believe.
@JoeBarthlow If rating services are correct, how can Marshall NOT be a number one back? He was a 4 star recruit. How many 5 star running backs are there in the average recruiting cycle? Most top 25 teams in the country have a former 3 or 4 star as their number one back.
The only reason Marshall might not be the number one back at Oregon next year is because Tyner signed on the line last February.
@JoeBarthlow Interesting, Joe. Tyner's a great talent, no doubt, but Marshall had big days in five straight wins to open conference play, including at Washington and versus UCLA. Not sure it's fair to say those weren't "when it counted." Admittedly he was bottled up by Stanford, but so was the entire offense. The ankle injury cost him two games
@DrakeMallard Drake, I haven't heard that nickname. Freeman? I agree. He'll play and contribute as a freshman. Very powerful.
@DougMai Thanks Doug. Consensus among the readers is that Tyner should be the lead back in 2014. Be interesting to see who's getting the carries against Michigan State.
@sozeduck The onus is on Scott Frost to use all these weapons properly and maximize the variety and effectiveness of his offense. This is a team that should be able to both stretch the field and pound the rock.
I think Tyner has the potential of being special, and maybe one of the best in the country, but you are crazy to suggest that marshal is anywhere near there. Go back and look at the stars again. This time look at the ducks overall ypc versus BM's. He played great games against bad talent. For example against Virginia he had 1.8 ypc, where the rest of the team averaged nearly 12. He also dropped crucial passes, and rarely came up with big plays when needed. His best game was against UCLA.
How many times did Lamichael or Barner find a way when the blocking wasn't there? You cite the o-line as the reason for the drop in production, but Lamichael never benefited from the defense having to focus on Mariota. Darron Thomas was hardly a run threat. Marshall isn't the same quality, and it's difficult to expect him to be. That is a very high bar. Basically, we Duck fans were spoiled with uber talented RB's for so long that we forget they don't grow on trees.
@sozeduck One other consideration. We have a deep stable of running backs to choose from. We may want to Red Shirt Mr. Freeman and go to Kani Benoit as the #3 back at this time. He came in as a 205lb three star who has a year of play learning experience under his belt. Give him a shot. Remember LaMike was also a three star and we all know what he did for the Ducks. BTW: Marshall is a stud and will start. Go Ducks WTD
@SonomaDuck Interesting that the guy turns in a thousand-yard season despite missing two games, and many are ready to dismiss him as a mediocre talent. While I agree with everyone that Thomas Tyner has exceptional ability, Marshall is not a slouch. Accepted his role and made the most of it.
@SonomaDuck Yup on everything you said.
@SonomaDuck He may be the starter, hope he shows that much in camps. But me thinks he'll split that role with Tyner early, then lose it to TT later on.
Can't wait to see Freeman rumbling forward, Tony James (after he rehabs from his leg/ankle injury) scampering in space, as well as the DAT-like Charles Nelson. Has to be one of if not the best stable of RBs in the country.
@MichaelGiambattista It will be interesting to see the rotation that emerges in September. How Tyner's work ethic? Marshall, with that 455-lb. squat, clearly has a superb one.
@hoboduck @sozeduck Thanks Hobo. I think Freeman has too much talent to redshirt, although both LMJ and Barner did, so who knows. I don't think Benoit has the top end speed to be as effective as the guys ahead of him. He did run for a lot of yards as a prep--we'll all get a good look at him in the spring game.
@Dale Newton Totally agree here, Dale. Tyner is great. Marshall is very, VERY good. Tons of teams would love to have him. I am glad we've got him.