Next season, the Ducks will look to fly all the way to the College Football Playoff. Of course, if they want to do that, they will need great production from every position group on the field. But since Oregon is replacing Justin Herbert, a great running game will be especially important.
In the last decade, the Ducks have had plenty of star running backs play for them (LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas and Royce Freeman, to name a few), and they hope to kick off the 20s with more of them. Let’s take a look at the ones who will be donning the green and yellow next season.
CJ Verdell will be the workhorse tailback for the third consecutive year. After rushing for over 1,000 yards in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, he will have an opportunity to do even greater things this year as they break in a new quarterback.
If Verdell is able to stay healthy, his production and his experience will make him the starter heading into the 2020 season. Verdell needs only 654 more rushing yards to pass Jonathan Stewart for fifth all-time on the Oregon career rushing list.
If you look at Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s stats, not a lot stands out. He has rushed only 103 times for 373 yards over the last two seasons. Although not an every-down back by any means, However, Habibi-Likio has been a large part of the goal-line and short-yardage packages for the Ducks, scoring 17 career touchdowns.
Look for Habibi-Likio to continue to spot Verdell next season in goal-line and short-yardage formations. Habibi-Likio has seemed to embrace his role as the short-yardage back.
Travis Dye is the remaining Dye left on the Oregon Ducks, after his older brother Troy graduated. Troy was a starting linebacker all four years during his time at Oregon, and the younger Dye is a pretty good player himself. As Verdell’s backup the last two seasons, he averages 5.7 yards per rush, while rushing for almost 1400 yards.
The question I have with Dye is whether he will be consistently able to run between the tackles, and succeed as an every-down back. Another offseason in the weight room, coupled with his blazing speed, could have Dye pushing Verdell for more early-down playing time.
Sean Dollars was a 4-star recruit coming out of Mater Dei High School. Unlike both Verdell and Dye, Dollars barely played this past season, rushing only seven times in two games. The NCAA allows a player to play in a maximum of four games to redshirt; Dollars only played in two, which gives him that redshirt year.
As a sophomore, Dollars will be in the mix going into spring ball, and could have a place in the offense with a new offensive coordinator. Right now he sits lower on the depth chart, but of course many things can happen between now and next fall.
Trey Benson is a name for Ducks fans to keep an eye on in the future, but I just don’t see a path where he sees the field much this year. A true freshman from Mississippi, I expect him to take a redshirt year much like Dollars did.
Benson will have an opportunity to bulk up in the weight room and prepare his body for the 2021 season. There are plenty of players ahead of him, so there’s no need to rush him onto the field.
It is still a long way until spring ball, and as we all know, nothing is certain as far as the rushing depth chart goes. Overall, the Ducks’ run game should be very successful, even with four offensive linemen graduating. Verdell should have an amazing year, and there is a lot of depth behind him, ready to step up.
In today’s age of college football, it is important to have a good run game. The Ducks will have one of the Pac-12’s best.
Days Creek, OregonTop Photo From Twitter
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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