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Marshall finally getting credit, but can he maintain the hunger?

One of the keys to Oregon’s season this year has been the emergence of Byron Marshall, who has very quietly taken over as the #1 running back, on his way to having one of the best seasons in Oregon history.

Preseason, the chief concern about the Ducks was a perceived thinness at RB after Kenjon Barner graduated. Could De’Anthony Thomas handle the load as a feature back? Would Thomas Tyner contribute as a freshman? Marshall had shown some promise as a true freshman, rushing 87 times for 447 yards in a mop-up role, a 5.1-yard average with a long run of 32 yards. He ran decently behind the #2 offensive line in decided games but like many young players he looked hesitant at times, and fans had the notion that he didn’t have the elite speed of Tyner, James or Barner (Gary Breedlove, Eugene Daily News photo).

 Flash forward eight games into this season, and Marshall’s convinced even the skeptics. He’s had six 100-yard games, including the last five in a row, erupting for a career-high 192 and 3 touchdowns against Washington. In all he’s scored 12 tds, with long carries of 40, 37, and 49 yards, all td runs.

Today he’s featured in separate stories by Rob Moseley of goducks.com and Jason Quick of oregonlive.com.

Marshall has been competing at a high level since he was a boy, national age group track events. He placed third in the national indoor championsips in the 60-meter dash and was a 6-time national champion in the long jump. At Valley Christian High in San Jose he started on the varsity as a freshman and scored the first five times he touched the ball.

The knock on #9 that he’s slower than LMJ, KB or “Dash” Tyner, but the Bay area standout ran a 10.67 100 in high school, despite training year-round for football and just running track on the side. In the last several games he’s demonstrated an effective top gear, breaking big runs when the Ducks needed them most.

His father, Greg Marshall is a professional athletic trainer who now owns his own training business, a former assistant trainer with the San Francisco 49ers. His mother is the track coach at his old high school, and both his siblings were Division One athletes.  Byron’s dad told Quick,  “Byron will never admit this out loud, but the fact that people don’t recognize him as elite to this point, it quietly burns the fire within him.’’

Quick reported that Byron’s family nickname was “Big,” for the way he competed in big events and big games. Throughout his athletic career he’s responded to challenges and pressure with his best performances. Like when De’Anthony Thomas came back to the lineup for the UCLA game, and Marshall went back to the bench. DAT didn’t have much success against the #12 Bruins, getting tossed around and battered on several plays, just 10 carries for 31 yards as the Quack Attack sputtered early.

Marshall came off the bench and ran hard, cutting and stop/starting to 133 yards on 19 carries and three more touchdowns. His 40-yard touchdown run in the second quarter got the Ducks back in control of the game.

The 5-10, 207-lb. sophomore is running harder and more decisively. He’s picking his holes, timing his moves, finishing runs, getting the most out of them at the line of scrimmage. He’s shown a burst and broken big plays, adding some versatility with 11 catches out of the backfield for 150 yards, including a 36-yard scamper with a swing pass against Tennessee. 

For the season, he has 879 yards rushing in 8 games, on pace for a 1,500-yard season, one of the top four in Oregon history. He’s scored 12 touchdowns.  Thursday is by far the biggest game of his college career so far, against an opponent that’s 11th in the country in rushing defense, allowing just 103.9 yards a game.

Now would be a good time for Byron Marshall to come up “Big.”

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