Searching Old Ducks For A New TAZR

Josh White FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Recently, I had a conversation regarding which former Ducks would excel in the current version of the Ducks offensive attack. It surprised me initially at just how quickly we could rattle off a handful of names and began discussing why each would or wouldn’t be a good fit.

Deciding to write a few of these down, the list began as an attempt to identify which former Ducks would be best suited for the modern-day Chip Kelly-Oregon spread option.

And specifically, the unique hybrid of part-running back, part-receiver, “TAZR” position currently held down by the sensational De’Anthony Thomas.

Today’s offense is certainly different than the pro-style offensive schemes in place when some of the very best athletes in Ducks history played at Oregon. Most will agree, there are few playmakers in the history of the game with DAT’s skill set.

However, looking back through Oregon Duck football history, there are several Ducks of old who may have pushed even the “Black Momba” for playing time.

For comparison, here are the rushing and receiving stats for De’Anthony Thomas so far:

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s


****NOTE: Due to the absence of recorded statistics for older Ducks, Special Teams statistics were not taken into consideration. That, and the TAZR is an offensive position…


Tony Cherry-

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

LaMichael James-like change of direction with Barner-esque smoothness, similar overall quickness, but

he was smaller than both James and Barner. Tony Cherry was a compact 5’7″ and 189 lbs but managed to put together a season in ’85 with 211 carries, 1,006 yards and also 39 catches for another 250 yards and 10 total touchdowns.

Allan Amundson- 

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

Perhaps underutilized or lost on the depth chart during during his time at Oregon, Amundson’s modest stats could also be attributed to having enrolled during the same years as one of the most productive backfield tandems in Ducks history, featuring twin 1,000 yard backs Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith. His most impressive asset was his pure speed and vision in the open field, two traits that would be hard to ignore in the current Ducks offense. He could flat out fly, and if given just enough space to operate…

Saladin McCullough (1996-97 )

Saladin McCullough (1996-97 ©University of Oregon Libraries – Special Collections and University Archives)

Saladin McCullough-

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

Shifty, speedy back from the early Bellotti era who showed toughness beyond his size.  McCullough was among the most dynamic backs and produced over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns averaging 7.9 yards per touch in his senior season.

Bobby Moore (Ahmad Rashad)-

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

The original multi-talented hybrid player to star in the Oregon backfield began his football life in

Eugene as a receiver, but switched to running back after averaging 7.8 yards per carry and scoring 5 touchdowns on the ground and also catching 10 touchdown passes.  Moore’s career highs include 1,200+ yard rushing season, a 750+ yard receiving season, double digit touchdowns each season (36 in 3 seasons) and over 3,800 all purpose yards before being drafted #4 overall in the NFL draft… Where he played wide receiver.

Dino Philyaw-

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

Screen pass specialist with surprising power and breakaway speed at 5’10” 200 lbs. Philyaw served as

Dino Philyaw (UO Special collections photo)

Dino Philyaw ©University of Oregon Libraries – Special Collections and University Archives

the perfect compliment to Ricky Whittle and the Ducks offense, and Oregon needed every one of his combined 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns to make it to the Rose Bowl as PAC-10 Champions in the 1994 season.

Keenan Howry-

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

Keenan Howry could do it all, solid hands, spectacular kick and punt returner who also catch the deep ball, run the reverse, catch screen passes, get open on intermediate routes, and even throw for touchdown passes. He averaged 11.5 yards on his 13 career carries, but he was a home run threat as a receiver first and foremost. His consistency led to a career of over 2,700 total yards, 28 touchdowns, and multiple school records.

Mel Renfro-

Career StatsRush ATTRush YardsPass RecRec YardsTotal TD’s

Among the best pure Duck athletes of all time, the 6’0″ 190 lb Renfro was unstoppable both as a rare

Mel Renfro (UO special collections photo)

UO Special Collections

Mel Renfro ©University of Oregon Libraries – Special Collections and University Archives

two-way player on the football field and running track, reportedly clocking a 13.8 in the since-extinct event of the 120 meter high-hurdles, and was on a world record 4×440 relay team clocked 40 seconds flat.  The multiple hall of fame athlete never really found much he couldn’t do, and it is hard to imagine an offense his career 6.01 ypc average couldn’t have helped (Although he was a 10-time NFL pro bowler as a defensive back).  His speed, physicality, and ability to create space, complimented by the modern running lanes created by zone blocking schemes would have been a sight to see.


I acknowledge, of course, that this is all hypothetical and we’ll never know how these athletes would perform in this current system, but it’s exciting to think about.  Those are just a few of the former greats who may have been able to post numbers similar to De’Anthony Thomas and wreck havoc on opposing defenses.

Who else? Lew Barnes, Don Reynolds? What about a Samie Parker, or Terry Obee?



(UO special collections photo)

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