The Ducks have had some fantastic running backs in the past. Players like LaMichael James, Derek Loville, and Jonathan Stewart have all cemented themselves as stars in Oregon’s football history. However, the Ducks have also historically had some difficulty dealing with depth for the running back spot, and that hasn’t changed.
Currently on the roster, we have CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, Sean Dollars, and freshman Trey Benson as options at RB, who all bring a lot to the table. However, the competition surrounding the position is apparent.
Jayvaun Wilson was recruited as a running back in April of 2018. Wilson stands at 6’2″ and weighs 220 pounds, a little bit bigger than his position competitors. Wilson was a consensus 3-star recruit out of high school, and was ranked as the No. 34 overall RB in the nation upon recruitment. He chose Oregon over other competitive programs such as Oregon State, Cal, and Washington. Wilson was also sought after by Arizona, where his older brother and LB Jay Jay Wilson played before transferring to Auburn in 2019.
Wilson is a very well rounded player. In his high school tapes, he demonstrates surprising speed for someone his size, easily splitting defenders and jetting across the field. When Wilson puts his head down and starts moving, the best place to be is out of his way. His size contributes significantly to his strength, and he has no problem bulldozing through would-be tacklers like chipping drywall. Wilson’s very strong on his feet, able to shrug off grappling defenders and shirk off flailing arms without losing much speed.
Despite this, Wilson is definitely not agile. He was clearly recruited as a power back as compared to Dollars, who is much more of an agile speed back. Wilson struggles when changing directions quickly, which can be problematic if he doesn’t have the clearest running route.
The combination of Wilson’s mass and velocity make him a versatile weapon. This could create the opportunity for Wilson to try out a variety of positions due to the competition at running back. On the defensive side of the field, Wilson has the frame of a linebacker, but also demonstrates the necessary speed and field knowledge to be an effective safety. That paired with a tenacity for chasing down opponents leaves you with a very solid defender. In an interview with Greg Biggins from 247sports, Wilson stated that he prefers running back to defensive positions:
“I like running back, I think that’s my best position. Oregon likes me as an athlete but more so as a running back and I think I fit in really well here. They want to bring in two backs in this class, a power back and a smaller, speed back and I would be the power back for them.”
But perhaps with a year on the sideline, Wilson will be ready to consider a transition into the defensive room. Since Wilson is prepared to compete physically at the collegiate level, that leaves a lot of room for growth tactically in the future as well. For a lot of recruits, it’s usually vice versa; taking advantage of college meal plans to try to catch up in terms of athleticism, but in this case it’s just one box that Wilson can check as he prepares to make an impact on the field.
Wilson is a great player to have on the Ducks’ roster. He is physically prepared to compete offensively and defensively, and with a year on the sideline, he is ready to leave his mark. Having such a versatile utility player gives the Ducks a lot more flexibility in terms of roster selections, but it also gives Wilson a much higher chance of lining up this fall (hopefully). Where do you think Wilson will end up playing? Either way, between hurtling through defenders or plowing through receivers, Wilson is a valuable asset to our Ducks.
Top photo by Kevin Cline
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
Zeke Lerner-Wood is a freshman at the University of Oregon from Alameda, California. Growing up in the Bay, Zeke follows the A’s, Raiders, and Warriors and since starting classes at the University, Zeke has been introduced to the world of NCAA football and has become an avid fan.
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