And the 2014 Forget-Me-Not Award Goes to — Byron Marshall

byron marshall featured

Over the past decade, Oregon fans have been blessed with stellar running backs carrying the ball for the Ducks. From Jonathan Stewart to LaMichael James to De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon has had success running the ball with different types of backs. This past month’s NFL draft was the third straight draft with an Oregon running back being drafted.

This upcoming season with Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner as the two featured backs, the Ducks potentially boast their best backfield yet. However, the one leading the charge – Marshall – has been seriously overlooked. Whether it’s the success of previous backs, the anticipation over who’s next or a combination of both, Byron Marshall has been in the shadows of his peers during his time as a Duck. But this could be the year that all changes.

Byron Marshall showing his blend of size and elusiveness

Craig Strobeck

Byron Marshall showing his blend of size and elusiveness.

If you were looking at a timeline of recent Oregon football running backs, it would be split up into eras starring different players. From LeGarrette Blount to James to Kenjon Barner to Thomas, all had their time to shine leaving their names in the Oregon record books. Now it seems that everyone is anxiously waiting for Tyner to carry the torch while forgetting that Marshall has been putting up very impressive numbers in his own right.

I understand the hype behind Tyner; he came into college as a five-star prospect, having turned heads when he scored 10 touchdowns in one high school game. And, he is from the state of Oregon. The “Heisman Pundit” has even hyped him as a potential Heisman trophy candidate. Now, Tyner is certainly an amazing back; he will have his time to shine. But, I believe this will be Marshall’s year.

Byron came into Oregon a bit under the radar, as he was behind senior Barner, who had anxiously waited for his time to shine, and sophomore standout Thomas. As a true freshman, Marshall played mostly in garbage time but he still ended up as the fourth-leading rusher on the team as he honed his skills and learned the Ducks’ high octane offense.

Byron Marshall ran for 3 touchdowns and 133 yards against UCLA

Kevin Cline

Marshall ran for three touchdowns and 133 yards against UCLA.

The following year, as a true sophomore, Marshall assumed the role of starting running back. He began the season with a mixed bag production wise, but once conference play started, he truly hit his stride. In fact, he rushed for more than 100 yards in the first five games of Pac-12 play and scored 10 touchdowns to boot.

What was important about that stretch is that it coincided with an injury to DAT. Marshall was able to show that he could carry the ball for Oregon in a consistent matter. Unfortunately, that five-game stretch proved to be the apex of his season, as Marshall struggled against Stanford, was injured against Arizona and then missed the Civil War due to his injured ankle. However, fueled by the disappointment that the end of the season brought — and the steadily improving Tyner nipping at his heels for a starting spot, look for Byron Marshall to be the next great Oregon running back this season.

He may not be able to match the numbers that James and Barner put up when his time as a Duck is over, but I believe he is just as good. In fact, with his slightly bigger frame, he might fare even better at the next level than his predecessors. Here are a couple of reasons why I believe, that when this season is all said and done, Byron Marshall will have cemented his legacy as the next great Oregon Duck running back:

Lack of Experience at Receiver

With Josh Huff, De’Anthony Thomas and Daryl Hawkins no longer with the program and with Bralon Addison tearing his ACL in practice, this Oregon team does not boast a proven, playmaking wide receiver. Last season, the first under new head coach Mark Helfrich, we saw Marcus Mariota’s passing numbers rise across the board. That was expected as Oregon boasted its best 1-2 punch at receiver in years, with Huff and Addison. This upcoming season however, with the receiving corps pecking order yet to truly materialize, look for Marshall to showcase his unique blend of size and speed early and often.

Byron Marshall will be depended on with a heavy workload

Craig Strobeck

Marshall will be depended on with a heavy workload.

A Tough Test Early in the Year

Oregon’s second game of the season is against the Michigan State Spartans. Oregon hasn’t had a big time non-conference matchup like this since they played LSU in 2011. With all due respect to the previously mentioned receivers, look for Oregon to depend on the players that have been in the trenches, when such a formidable opponent comes to Autzen Stadium.

There’s a time to try out new things and then there’s a time to depend on your bread and butter. Quite frankly, this is an occasion for the latter. Hopefully, Oregon will be able to control the line of scrimmage against the reigning Rose Bowl champions, instead of having to rely too much on the inexperienced receivers as they play in their big, early test.

Oregon is coming into this season with arguably the best quarterback in the country. Yet, they have also developed their best running back combination since LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. With all the hype surrounding Marcus Mariota and the intrigue of Thomas Tyner with a full college offseason under his belt, let’s not forget who has been playing his tail off for the Green and Yellow these past few seasons.

Yes, it’s time to get excited for Byron Marshall.

Top photo by Craig Strobeck

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Steven Holstad

Steven Holstad

Originally from San Diego, Steven decided to take a shot on attending a school over 1000 miles from home, and he’s been happy ever since. Steven graduated from the University of Oregon in 2013, and his passion for sports has followed him into his post-college life. A huge fan of both basketball and football, Steven enjoys incorporating both statistics and his own personal beliefs into his writing. When he’s not watching sports, Steven is currently training for his first half-marathon, and is looking to run a few more in the future. You can follow Steven on Twitter at @StevenHolstad

  • hoboduck

    I could not agree more. I too have thought Byron was being glossed over for other players. Unfairly I might add. The kid is a stud and I too believe he will dominate this year. Very nice piece.
    Go Ducks WTD

  • Platypus1

    You could very well be right; However, I believe running back carries will be split fairly evenly between Tyner and Marshall. Marshall may even be relegated to a third-down situational back, or a change-of-pace back. Of course, all this can change with injury. In that event, we may see a bit of Freeman.

  • Peter Ingle

    Too often last year I saw Byron get the amount of yards available, and no more. He didn’t run through people, he didn’t make people miss, and he didn’t use speed to run by people. If there was a hole and he could run 6 yards before a defender got to him, it was a 6 yard gain.

    He got better at this towards the end of the season. And to be fair, LaMichael looked the same way his freshman year. But I’m in the camp that thinks Tyner (or someone else) will be getting the bulk of the carries fairly soon.

    I hope I’m wrong… the guy obviously has the tools.

    • Krambo

      For your first point, I agree 100% and have been saying it to anyone who will listen. I was a little taken back by this piece because what the author was saying, and what we saw on the field were polar opposites.

      I’ve heard Gary Campbell talk over the years about teaching his backs to make the first man miss. This is Byron’s biggest weakness, and it’s a glaring one. Even LMJ his frosh year could use his quickness and speed to get around the first defender. Marshall has a problem even falling forward for an extra 1 or 2 yards, regardless of his momentum.

      I’m throwing my hope behind Royce Freeman being able to come in and have an impact. Tyner began to look like he belonged the last few games of 2013. A thunder-and-lightning combo of those two backs are what Oregon is going to need to get to the first playoff.

    • hoboduck

      I’ll take six yards a carry every touch. i.e. Stanford.
      Go Ducks WTD

  • Patrick Pine

    Agree that Marshall is being overlooked – and while excited about the potential from Tyner and Freeman – I think Marshall will be much better than his critics suggest. He will likely be more aggressive now – the main criticism has been that he does not ‘move the pile’ nor does he elude the first defender – betting we will be pleasantly surprised. GO DUCKS.

  • DuckstuckinWA

    Byron Marshall is a stud, have liked him since he was recruited. He has been patient and will show everyone this year to be a major player at this level. He will carry this team on his shoulders along with Mariota. WTD, GO DUCKS!

    • Godux

      Well , he might carry the part that is not on the shoulders of Marcus …

  • Michael Sean Christensen

    Marshall is a pedestrian back. When a hole is there he can get some yards. Don’t expect him to create his own opportunities through. Tyner is a better back already. I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Ingle. Tyner will end up taking the majority of snaps in the end because he is simply the better back.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      marshall is not a running back the way royce freeman is. look at his stats. he has 660 yards as a receiver and 318 as a running back. byron marshall is playing the role his team needs him to play to win games. the fact that many fans try to put him into the pro style mode like you just did should not, in my opinion, diminish his value.

  • Lsu fan

    The whole team is over shadowed by the awesome uniforms.

  • westcott4819@gmail.com

    Oregon has two great running backs, both will make an impact this year. Go Ducks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Clyde Lewis

    Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner are going to be the best one two punch in Oregon history. Its Lamichael James and Legarrette Blount on a whole other level.

  • hokieduck

    I am afraid that I respectfully disagree with both points in this post. I do not see Marshall as a great Duck running back; he simply has never impressed me. He seems to lack the vision and burst to pop through the first hole and his size is not enough to drag people through the middle.

    I see Tyner reaching his potential this year with Royce Freeman being the bulldozer back. Marshall will be the third component of the Cerberus of Oregon’s backfield, but not the main one.

    Secondly, I disagree with the assessment here that Oregon’s passing game will struggle. I think that the Ducks are very deep at WR even though they are not very experienced. Helfrich wants to pass the ball more and they have an incredibly accurate passer in Marcus Mariota. Devon Allen will prove to be a beast as a redshirt freshman. Good hands, tough and lightning speed. Chance Allen and Darren Carrington both go in at 6’2″ and approximately 190-200#. Bj Kelley also measures out at 6’2″ and has track speed. Then there is Dwayne Stanford at 6’5″ with a year’s experience. Finally Jalen Brown, though young, was touted through the Spring for his “Stick-em hands and maturity.

    I realize these guys are largely untested but I think that Marcus reads his progressions very well and finds the open receiver rather than looking for “his” guy. In a way, having Addison go down early has opened up the position and given a vibrancy and edge to the competition that may not have been there before. It may turn out to hone all of these guys sharper and faster than had the position been penciled in already. I predict that instead of this position group being the question mark, it will be another strength of the Ducks offense.

    Go Ducks.

  • Godux

    Marshall is a stud and could be on the field with most teams in the nation, though not a star. At Oregon he is the second or third best back, due to his experience, and seems more like he is in a fullback role though not in that position. He still needs to demonstrate he can drive a pile before he can be a primary option.
    Given that he can contribute a lot in providing depth to the Duck running game.
    Also, if Oregon has to rely on their running game as their primary weapon vs MSU, they are in big trouble. That ain’t going to happen.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    byron marshall seems to have taken over DATs job as the gadget player. the thing is old style NFL offenses have no such designation and would need to reassign and retrain him in many cases. DAT went 4th round and marshall lacks his kind of prestige. i see teams changing away from the traditional ground and pound types of offenses though. marshall has over 1000 yards of total offense for the ducks. as an athlete he is definitely good enough to play in the NFL but the NFL seems to like one dimensional players so that might be a problem for him. i hope not.