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Why We Watch: Byron Marshall and Being Different

Byron Marshall might not fit the ideal of an Oregon running back, or at the least the backs that have been very successful running the ball. What he lacks he makes up for with what he brings to the offense. Being different can be better than ideal.


Not everything fits as planned.  Every once in a while you get a player that doesn't exactly fit to one's ideals.  Sometimes you get stuck with Vin Diesel as a co-star with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the most recent Fast and Furious movies and the result is you can't shoot them standing next to each other without the camera being at a weird angle to hide the height differential, or hiding the box that Vin Diesel has to stand on so he can be eye-to-eye with The Rock.  Byron Marshall is a running back who is very talented and strong, but might probably fit better in a pro-style offense running behind a fullback.

An example of a running back who probably is better suited for a power offense is Jonathan Stewart.  Stewart was the top rated running back coming out of high school and ended up in an offense that has shown to be at its best with a running back like LaMichael James running the ball.  However, Stewart was an amazing running back whose speed set an Autzen record for longest rush and almost single-handedly took down Washington in 2007.  Talented players work well in any offense, even if they don't have the best skill set.  But hey, not everyone can be Kevin James whenever a movie about a middle-aged, overweight, socially awkward guy is being casted.

Byron Marshall is a powerful running back at 5'10" 201 pounds.  He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his freshman debut.  However, Marshall seems to be stuck somewhere between the superstar speedster De'Anthony Thomas and one of the hottest true running back recruits in a while.

Part of the reason why Byron Marshall doesn't get as much praise as he probably should is because he doesn't have the speed that makes you say, "Wow."  He doesn't have breakaway speed where he pulls away from defender.  Instead, he has the power to break through congested running lanes and the ability to fight through would-be tacklers.  The play that best signifies what Byron Marshall has to offer can be seen in last season's first game, where he was stopped short two yards short of the goal line but continued to fight for a touchdown, pulling a couple defenders with him.

Byron Marshall 2012 Highlights (via madmike1951)

If De'Anthony Thomas runs as calm as a Hindu cow and Kenjon Barner ran like he was on roller skates, then Byron Marshall runs crazed and just a little bit frantic.  What he lacks in speed he makes up for in intensity and drive.  He runs hard.

In the spring game Byron Marshall was the best back available so we got to see a lot of reps from him.  Marshall looked fast.  Marshall run around and through people.  I can envision Marshall getting a lot more carries than people think, not because De'Anthony Thomas can't handle too many carries, but because Byron Marshall has earned the carries because of his abilities.

Byron Marshall may not be the fastest running back or the flashiest.  Oregon has a pretty good history of outstanding running backs and Marshall was the third option last year even though he probably had the talent to start on other PAC-12 teams.  I'm going to be watching Byron Marshall a lot this year because he has intangibles and intensity that appear to be superior to other backs on the team.  He plays hard, which is something I respect a lot out of athletes.

Then again, I may be thinking about this all wrong.  Maybe there isn't an ideal back for the Oregon offense.  His lack of elite speed doesn't make him any less of a running back than others.  If anything, he provides something that the other backs don't.  He brings power and a DGAF attitude when he runs.  He's not any better, or worse.  As 2 Chainz would say, "He's different."