Oregon Set to Begin New Era at Running Back For First Time in Four Years

Oregon Set to Begin New Era at Running Back For First Time in Four Years

Oregon has seen CJ Verdell and Travis Dye tote the rock for each of the past four seasons. That won’t be the case this year.

LaMichael James. De’Anthony Thomas. Kenjon Barner. Royce Freeman. Thomas Tyner. Byron Marshall. These are just some of the names that have made up Oregon’s running back room in recent years, one that’s been a model of consistency powered by dynamic duos. 

Now heading into 2022, it could be argued that the running back room has seen the most shakeup of any position on the Oregon roster. Verdell takes his shot at making an NFL roster, while Dye returns to Southern California to play for the Trojans under new head coach Lincoln Riley.

While the former duo looks to take the next step in their respective careers, a new era is set to begin in the Oregon backfield after being overhauled by new running backs coach Carlos Locklyn. 

RELATED: DJ Johnson leads talented and intriguing group of outside linebackers for Oregon in 2022

First let’s start with the returners.

Oregon RB Byron Cardwell

Byron Cardwell WSU 1

Byron Cardwell vs. the Washington State Cougars.

Byron Cardwell saw the most action for the Ducks last year after filling in admirably for CJ Verdell, whose season was cut short, and spelling the team’s new go-to back Travis Dye. He ran for 417 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries, averaging an impressive 6.8 yards per carry.

Oregon RB Sean Dollars

Bo Nix Sean Dollars Spring Game Cropped

Dollars takes a handoff from Bo Nix in the Oregon spring game.

Sean Dollars returns to Eugene after originally entering the transfer portal in January. He was the country’s top all-purpose as a senior in the class of 2019 and looks like he’s back to 100% after a strong showing in the spring game. Cardwell was held out of the spring game in a precautionary move, which allowed Dollars and another name on this list to get some good work.

Now for the newcomers that Oregon has brought in under Dan Lanning and Carlos Locklyn.

Oregon RB Noah Whittington

Noah Whittington Noah Sewell Spring

Noah Whittington drives through a tackle from Noah Sewell in spring practice.

The talk of the group this offseason has been Noah Whittington, who comes with Locklyn after spending two season at Western Kentucky and rushing for 617 yards last year. His 84 total yards in the spring game included a 45-yard dash and a touchdown, all while displaying a tough running style and explosiveness out of the backfield. 

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Despite playing in the nation’s leading passing offense, don’t discount his ability to make plays in both phases of the game. 

Oregon RB Mar’Keise Irving

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Mar’Keise Irving rushes against West Virginia in 2021.

Then you have Mar’Keise ‘Bucky’ Irving, a Minnesota transfer that took on a larger role for the Golden Gophers after Mohamed Ibrahim tore his Achilles in the seasoner opener. He was highly-coveted in the transfer portal in part to racking up 966 all-purpose years in his lone collegiate season. He’s a do-it-all back that battles for every inch he earns on the gridiron.

Oregon RB Jordan James

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Jordan James committed to Oregon after flipping from Georgia.

Last but not least among the scholarship backs is Jordan James. He was in headlines back in February when the Ducks flipped him from Georgia and won another impressive recruiting battle in the Southeast, this time in Murfreesboro, Tenn. 

With a bunch of new faces in the room, there’s sure to be a ton of competition heading into fall camp. And that’s exactly what Carlos Locklyn is striving to create in order to produce the nation’s best group of running backs. The new running backs that have been brought in have created a lot of buzz and are absolutely worth keeping an eye on with carries finally up for grabs in a very young backfield.

The Ducks were second in the Pac-12 in total rushing yards a season ago at 2,833 yards and fourth in rushing yards per game (202.4). With a backfield that projects to be lethal, don’t be surprised to see them retake the conference’s rushing crown, as has become tradition in recent years.

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