Ducks in the Backfield: Too Much of a Good Thing?


When the Ducks landed Taj Griffin, the fourth-ranked RB in this year’s class, my initial reaction was joy. Afterwards, though, I got to thinking. Royce Freeman is a way-too-early candidate for Pac-12 player of the year, Thomas Tyner returns healthier than ever and Byron Marshall is still the most dynamic player the Ducks can hand the ball to. In short, there are a lot of guys who deserve carries, but there simply won’t be enough carries to make everyone happy.

In the past, the Ducks have featured two premiere backs. The recent running back duo of LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner is a prime example of this situation. In 2011 the Ducks were stacked at the RB position, as they so often are, yet Barner (152 carries) and James (247) both still managed to rush for more than 900 yards each. Another guy you might’ve heard of, De’Anthony Thomas, finished third on the team with 55 carries and almost 600 yards rushing. Those numbers, although historic for some programs, have come to be expected from the Ducks.

Although Tyner is older, Freeman seems to be the more promising back for Oregon.

Kevin Cline

Although Tyner is older, Freeman seems to be the more promising back for Oregon.

Jump forward to 2015 now, and the Ducks are in a similar situation. Except, and this is a big asterisk here, there are way more than two backs who feel like they’re going to deserve a bulk of the carries. Although Oregon is a team dedicated to “Winning the Day” and making sure to place the team before individuals, there’s no escaping the fact that talented players are going to want game time. On top of the aforementioned players, RBs Tony James and Kani Benoit both should expect at least a slight increase in carries, too.

In the words of the late Billy Mays, though, “But wait, there’s more!” Oregon QBs are required to run an effective read-option offense, and without the ability to tuck and run, Oregon QBs wouldn’t see the success they so often do. Although we as fans applaud Oregon for this fact, to the coaches it’s just more carries that have to be shared.

Although Freeman is the for sure No. 1 RB next year, and will see a share of carries to verify this, what the Ducks do next is up in the air. Could the term “Running Back by committee” take on a whole new life? Perhaps. The one thing that is certain though, no matter who’s running the ball, is that the Ducks will see success next season on the ground.

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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Caleb Couturie

Caleb Couturie

Caleb is a sophomore at the University of Oregon intending to double major in Journalism and Sports Management. He is the Managing Editor for, along with being a lifetime Saints and San Francisco Giants fan, as Caleb fell in love with sports at a young age and developed that love into a passion for sports analysis. He is looking forward to cheering on the Ducks throughout his career at Oregon, and is always willing to talk sports with any fellow fan.

  • Autzen Magic

    Three predictions:

    1) Byron Marshall will almost exclusively play as WR;

    2) I am not so quick to anoint Freeman as “for sure the No. 1 RB next year.” Tyner came on strong late last year and I predict he is #1 guy next year if he can stay healthy; and

    3) Tony James is #3 on the depth chart (ahead of Griffin).

    • MarcTheDuck

      I agree that it’s too soon to rule Tyner out of #1 position… but it would be very hard to unseat Freeman. Still, a healthy Tyner is something to behold.

      • Caleb

        Either way guys, you can’t argue with the fact that it’s gonna be crowded back there next year!

        • Rick

          Guessing Griffin redshirts to let knee get stronger and putting more eligibility time between he and Freeman and Tyner….James and Griffin next great duo….Go Ducks!!