Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
RB De'Anthony Thomas
After the questions about what kind of impact new head coach Mark Helfrich would have on the program (which has turned out to be as big of a non-storyline as they come so far), the running back situation seemed to generate the most conversation in the offseason.
Could De'Anthony Thomas really be an every-down back? What would Byron Marshall look like in Year 2? How will highly touted freshman Thomas Tyner factor in to everything?
With the caveat that it's only been two games, it's safe to say a light has been shed on a few of these questions.
Thomas can indeed be an every-down back and he's thrived in that very role through two games. The power running game still appears to be a work in progress, but when De'Anthony finds space, he is a threat to take it all the way.
The jury is still out on Byron Marshall, however. The sophomore back looked great against Nicholls State in the opening game, but struggled a bit against Virginia this past Saturday. Part of that can be attributed to the offensive line's inability to create running lanes. Another portion of the blame lies solely with the Cavaliers' front seven, which is better than most of the ones that the Ducks will face this season.
But Marshall also looked pretty hesitant at times. He seemed to pick it up in the second half and gain some confidence, but you still have to wonder if he can be effective against great defenses.
Oregon's game at Virginia also gave fans their first glimpse of Tyner, who absolutely dazzled in his four carries. The first rush went for three tough yards and a touchdown. The next two were medium-length gains in which Tyner hit the hole hard, and the final carry was a long touchdown run straight up the middle.
To be fair, the running lanes were big enough to drive small cars through, but you have to love the poise and decisiveness shown by Tyner in his first few carries as a college running back. It will be very interesting to see what kind of role he has this Saturday.
Overall, the rushing attack is alive and well, but what kind of role each back continues to have will be a storyline that dominates the 2013 season.