With the loss of key players from last year’s Fiesta Bowl Championship team, Mark Helfrich will have his hands full this spring organizing the depth chart and finding replacements for those leaders on and off the field who have now moved on. Here’s my take on the top breakout candidate from each side of the ball and why I think it’s their time to shine.
Byron Marshall, RB: Marshall will enter his second season with the plenty of experience on the field. With the departure of Kenjon Barner, Marshall will have the chance to step into a key role in the offense. Last year, he showed that he has good patience waiting for blocks and can be hard to wrap up through the holes. A physical player, he has the motor to truck through people. He will be a good change-of-pace back to complement De’Anthony Thomas, who is purely speed and loves running to the outside. Marshall’s stats are a small sample size, but very promising. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 87 attempts. Look for Marshall to have an even better sophomore year and join De’Anthony to form one of the best running back combos in the country.
Arik Armstead, DL: Thanks to Oregon’s depth on the defensive line, Armstead was eased into games, allowing him to learn a lot. With the departure of future first round pick Dion Jordan, Armstead will be expected to become a big presence on the line. This specimen is 6′ 8″ and weighs a lean 280 pounds. Only entering his sophomore season, Armstead will be able to build his already massive frame over the offseason. With the recent news of Armstead’s decision to redshirt in basketball, he will have more time to devote to football and prepare his body for next year.
These two players, who coincidentally both wear the number 9, are in a perfect position to excel. They watched and learned from some of the best players Oregon has ever had. It is now their time to shine and show us what they can do as starters. Look for theses players to not only to exceed expectations but even outshine those who came before them.