Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner are great talents with a dazzling futures, but their backfield mate Byron Marshall is almost an after thought to some Oregon fans despite rushing for 1038 yards last season and 1484 in his two-year Duck career.
Marshall averaged 6.2 yards a carry in 2014 with 14 touchdowns. He put together a streak of five straight 100-yard games that included 192 against Washington State and 133 versus UCLA.
Yet when many fans talk about the upcoming season they start with the ascendance of Tyner or the fabulous potential of Freeman. Marshall running over, around and through people, often unspectacularly following his blocks or smoothly taking a pass out of the backfield, just doesn’t have the same panache.
People forget that the junior from San Jose was the West Coast’s #1 running back prospect the year he came out, a 4-star recruit. He doesn’t have Tyner’s dazzling speed, but he’s not slow. Marshall has good ball security and vision. He’s a patient runner who lets things develop, and he’s learned to be more decisive. An injury late in the year cost him a run at 1200-1300 yards, one that might have earned him more individual credit.
The great thing about Marshall is that he hasn’t gotten caught up in the comparisons or recognition. Like Marcus Mariota he’s a football player who wants to win and handles the attention with poise and maturity.
Ultimately it’s the character of guys like these that will make the 2014 Ducks a great team. Talent got them to the top, but commitment and focus will make them special.