Heisman Trophy candidates Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas are not alone in the Ducks' star-studded backfield.
With 850 rushing yards in their first two games, the Oregon Ducks have made it clear that losing Kenjon Barner hasn't done much to hurt their vaunted rushing attack—the same way losing Jonathan Stewart, Jeremiah Johnson, LeGarrette Blount and LaMichael James to the NFL didn't either.
The talent, depth and versatility of Oregon's backfield will be on display this week when the Ducks face off against the Tennessee Volunteers. A tougher opponent and a healthy Thomas Tyner may help provide a glimpse into what the rushing attack will look like going forward.
Will the Ducks continue to run De'Anthony Thomas between the tackles against bigger, more athletic defensive fronts like Tennessee? Or will they move him around, utilizing his speed and versatility out of the slot as the season rolls along and the stakes get higher?
Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas leads the Ducks in carries and yards but he will likely see more time in the slot this week.
De'Anthony Thomas has always been able to meet and exceed any challenges he has been faced with on the football field. In the Ducks' first two games this season, Thomas has already proved that he can be an inside runner that is able to withstand the pounding an every down back takes. The 5'9, 170-pound speedster had 29 carries for 253 yards and five touchdowns in two games as the Ducks primary running back.
The prevailing thought among Oregon fans seems to be that Thomas will see his role expand with more touches out of the slot position. If Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner can step up and be the inside runners the Ducks need, it would open things up even more for Thomas to shine on the outside.
No matter what his role is going forward, Thomas will help the Ducks with no questions asked. The humble superstar doesn't mind starting at running back if it helps the team. With that being said, Thomas knows his best asset is the ability to make people miss and blow by them in the open field.
Sophomore running back Byron Marshall has loads of potential and should see an increase in playing time and carries this season.
Ducks fans assumed that Byron Marshall would be the one to carry the load, allowing De'Anthony Thomas to continue using his breathtaking skill set on the edge. The Ducks have used Thomas in the starting role with Marshall serving as his backup. As the competition gets turned up, this could be the week that Marshall becomes more of a featured back.
The Vols' front line will put up a fight until the Ducks' fast-paced attack likely wears them down. Marshall pounding the ball right at them and Thomas running away from them would be a good plan of attack for the Ducks. Whether or not the Vols prove to be tough in the trenches, now is the time for Marshall to take his game to the next level.
The Ducks and their fans know what Marshall is capable of, but you can't blame non-fans if he slips their mind while discussing Oregon's talented backfield.
When you are sandwiched between the most exciting player in the country and a much-ballyhooed freshman that scored on two of his four carries in his first college game, it is tough to stand out.
Marshall's 6.7 yards per carry thus far in 2013 is nothing to scoff at, but he needs to establish himself as a true threat in a breakout game on a big stage. The upcoming SEC program would be a great opportunity for him to shine and become a household name across the country.
Freshman running back Thomas Tyner has the prototypical size and speed to be the next star in the Ducks' backfield.
As the fastest high school sprinter in the history of Oregon (10.35 in the 100-meter dash), Thomas Tyner was already a household name before he could drive to school at Aloha (Ore.) High School.
As a sophomore, Tyner was named the state's football player of the year and followed that up by breaking the sprint record that spring. As a senior, Tyner amassed 643 yards and 10 touchdowns in a single game en route to breaking the state record for the most rushing yards in a season (3,415).
After being held out of the Nicholls State game to recover from an ankle injury, Tyner exploded into the national consciousness by scoring on the first carry of his college career.
The three-yard scoring run was a nice way to introduce himself to the college football world. Oregon fans wouldn't need to wait long for an encore. In the middle of the fourth quarter, Tyner blazed 31 yards up the gut for another score and provided a glimpse into the future that will likely have him running away from defenders for years to come.
Byron Marshall may be the more experienced and better all-around back as of right now but Tyner has a much higher upside that could have him on the field a lot more in the coming weeks.
Even future NFL tight end Colt Lyerla is involved in the Oregon running game when he is used in power situations.
At 6'5", 250 pounds, Colt Lyerla is a freak athlete. Not in the generic sense of the word. He is a very rare physical specimen that will test through the roof at the NFL Combine. He is an absolute terror to bring down after the catch and once he gets going downhill, attempts to stop him are mostly futile.
The Oregon coaches recognized that and knew he played running back in high school, so they developed a series of running plays as a way to get the ball in his hands more often. His carries are few and far between but he has accumulated 94 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown up to this point. Look for him to add to those numbers by the end of this season.