Marcus Mariota has led Oregon to the No. 2 ranking in the nation
Oregon Ducks football is alive and well but not because of the players everyone knows. RB Kenjon Barner and RB De'Anthony Thomas have been great, but they are not the sole reasons that Oregon is ranked No. 2.
Barner is an absolute beast of a running back. He has averaged at least six yards per carry over the last three years, and he had 11 touchdowns last season.
Barner has led the Ducks in three of their first four games. He even had 201 yards and three touchdowns against Fresno State. The senior back is building a good resume as NFL scouts start looking at him to play on Sunday's next season.
Thomas, along with Barner, creates possibly the best running duo in college football. While Barner looks more like a typical running back, Thomas is a lot like Dexter McCluster, except better.
Thomas may be the fastest player in college football, and he is a great receiver. In 2011, Thomas only had 595 yards rushing, but he had 605 yards receiving. He also had 16 total touchdowns.
Thomas's best game this season also came against Fresno State. The sophomore Duck rushed for 102 yards on seven carries. If he could add a little weight, he will be the most dynamic weapon in next year's draft.
Most people know these guys, though, and they don't see the other guys. There are four players who have been vital to Oregon's success, and three of them are freshmen.
Freshman Byron Marshall could be the next great Oregon running back. In fact, according to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian, Marshall chose the Ducks because of their running back-friendly offense.
At a school that has produced backs like Jonathan Stewart and LaMichael James, Marshall came to the right place. Unfortunately, the school is so loaded that it is easy to see how Marshall has gone unnoticed.
Marshall is currently stuck behind Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas. With two explosive backs in front of him, it's hard for Marshall to get significant playing time.
But when Marshall has been given his chance, he has excelled. He had 64 yards against Arkansas State and 125 yards against Tennessee Tech. He may have to wait until next year to shine, but Marshall will make the Ducks uniform shine even brighter when he takes over.
The one sophomore on this list is the versatile tight end Colt Lyerla. At 6'5", 238 pounds, Lyerla has prototypical size for his position.
As a freshman, Lyerla only had seven catches, but five were for touchdowns. It also does not help that Oregon's focus is the running back position. The Ducks' backs are so versatile that they dominate the run game and the passing game.
So this season, Lyerla is going to be just like a running back. In Oregon's annihilation of Arizona, Lyerla shared in the team's explosive offense.
The sophomore tight end finished with a respectable 53 receiving yards. The explosive part comes when people see the 63 rushing yards Lyerla had.
Don Ryan of The Washington Post reported that this was pretty much coming. He wrote that it was nothing new for Lyerla to line up in the backfield, but coach Chip Kelly thought it was "time to take it to the next level."
Lyerla can be yet another explosive weapon in the Oregon offense, and it is time people know it.
Freshman Bralon Addison is another unknown weapon for Oregon. The problem is that he is a wide receiver.
The 5'10" receiver from Texas is the only receiver to have more than 50 yards receiving in a game this season. The running back position is just so dominant that it has taken over the offense.
Addison's best game came against Arizona. He had three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. But, it was his 55-yard reception against Arizona that solidified Addison as an explosive weapon.
He is such a dynamic player, but he is part of an offense full of dynamic players.
He'll return kicks and do what he can at receiver, for now, but expect Addison to make a name for himself as he develops in the coming years.
QB Marcus Mariota may be a freshman, but this guy is going to be a Heisman candidate in the near future.
At 6'4", Mariota has ideal height, and he is mobile. He is not a run-first quarterback, though.
What has made Mariota stand out this season is his accuracy. Granted, Oregon has not faced any top defenses, but he has still don a great job throwing the football. He is averaging close to 70 percent on the year when it comes to completion percentage.
Mariota has also done a great job protecting the football as he only has two interceptions while throwing 10 touchdowns.
Mariota's explosive game came against Tennessee Tech. He went 21-of-28 with 308 yards passing and four touchdowns.
While it would be great to see him use his receivers more, the running backs are so great at Oregon, it would be a crime not to use them.
Mariota has the potential to lead Oregon to a national championship. I just hope people realize that this guy is a playmaker and can win. He is worthy of recognition.
Mariota is a great, explosive player ready to lead the future of Oregon Ducks football.