The first time we really saw what Byron Marshall was capable of he was pushing through three Arkansas St. defenders for a touchdown after he looked like he had been stuffed. Marshall doesn't possess the elite speed we've come to expect from Oregon running backs, but he has the strength that has been lacking at times. His strength and large frame is actually very deceptive in that it robs the realization to fans of just how fast he is. That's the thing about Marshall though, he isn't just one thing, he's an all-around dynamic running back, and an opposing defense's worst nightmare.
In a lot of ways, the first thoughts and reactions we had to Byron Marshall have continued to be held as the defining characteristics of Byron Marshall these last few years. He entered the school with less fanfare than other backs and given his frame and comparative speed we all pegged Marshall as a player who was a power running back as if such a thing can exist in the Oregon offense. Byron Marshall can't be defined in a traditional power back or change-of-pace back because his greatest characteristic is his ferocity.
Last year Marshall took 168 handoffs for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those stats only are representative of him getting more than 11 handoffs in 9 games. He was the second option behind De'Anthony Thomas in three games, barely played in the Arizona game, didn't play in the Oregon State game, and was rotated frequently in the Alamo Bowl against Texas. As impressive as Byron Marshall's statistics are they aren't even indicative of a full season's statistics.
When getting a hand-off or catching a pass out of the backfield (catching passes well is something he doesn't get nearly enough credit for) he hides behind linemen and waits like Cthulhu before exploding through the gap. When Marshall hits the second level and the third level of the defense that's when he opens up and becomes scary for defenders. Again, he isn't scary in the traditional sense of the word when thinking of Oregon football in that he runs by defenders. He is scary on a personal level to the defenders because they aren't safe from him. Marshall isn't running away from the defenders, instead he opts to run through them.
Marshall doesn't have speed that makes you hold your breath. Byron doesn't run truck linebackers or jump over people. Instead, he is equal parts of all the traits you want in a running back. He has excellent patience, vision, speed, strength, skill, and pass catching to go with his "I don't give an F" attitude. None of his skills in isolation are otherworldly, but when all of these traits are seen together it develops a synergy that makes him scary in a very sneaky and quiet way.
Defenders are often viewed as nightmares in the backfield or the big-hitters that inflict a certain amount of pain but Byron Marshall doesn't accept that. Marshall flips the script on the defenders. He is the defense's worst nightmare and the defenders aren't spared the comfort of having the nightmare fly by because Marshall is coming straight for them.