If you're reading this, you're probably aware that the Oregon Ducks lost in the first College Playoff National Championship Game. While there's no way around the fact that that's a tough pill to swallow, there is a reason to be optimistic heading forward; a steady flow of recruits.
Oregon's 2015 recruiting class features a handful of potential impact players, headlined by all-purpose back Taj Griffin.
A strong running game has been the bread and butter of Oregon's offense for some time now. With Marcus Mariota likely leaving school early to go pro, the Ducks will have to rely on their ground game more than ever.
With Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner (who combined for 1,938 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in 2014-15) still in the fold, Oregon's run game likely won't skip a beat.
But judging by the 252 attempts Royce Freeman saw as a freshman, Mark Helfrich and the Ducks' coaching staff isn't afraid to utilize their first-year players. That's where Taj Griffin comes in.
Griffin, 5'10, 175 pounds, is widely regarded as one of the top running backs in the country. He's the fourth best running back on ESPN's 300 list, and the second best back according to 247Sports.
Committed back in April, Griffin has already been enrolled at Oregon. Despite tearing his ACL back at the beginning of his senior season of high school, it's likely that he'll be fully recovered by the time he puts on an Oregon jersey.
If you watch Taj Griffin on the field, one word comes to mind: Speed. Like many running backs under six feet, Griffin counts on his wheels to get him to where he needs to go. If he is given just a small window of space, he's gone. Gap between the linebackers? Gone. A small hole after bouncing to the outside? Gone. You get the point. While it's easy to claim that doing it against high school defenses doesn't mean a whole lot, his 4.31 40-yard dash sure brings some attention to him.
He accelerates faster than a brand new sports car, and at top speed, he's near untouchable. Getting up the field, Griffin is no stranger to making several cuts to elude the defense. The best part about that? He's not losing speed when he does so.
The easiest comparison for Griffin would have to be former Duck De'Anthony Thomas. Although it may be a bit of a cop out, both Thomas and Griffin share similar sizes, speed, and return game ability. Who knows if Griffin could have an impact in the screen/passing game like DAT did, but one can only hope.
Taj's own brother, Ty, a quarterback at Oregon, even compared him to De'Anthony Thomas in an October interview. He goes on to say:
Yeah, I mean, I don't want to boost him all up, but I think he's going to be really good.
While that is some high praise for someone who's never stepped foot on college turf, it's hard not to get excited. Many eyes will be on Griffin, and the other freshman, as we look towards the start of next season.