Running back - 5’9”, 205 lb. - Chula Vista, CA - Junior
With veteran offensive departures like Justin Herbert, Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson and Calvin Throckmorton, the 2020 season is going to be heavily reliant on CJ Verdell’s production.
One of seven returning FBS players to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, Verdell is arguably the top running back in the Pac-12. Entering a rebuild season the third-year back is fourth among returning FBS players with 2,238 career rushing yards. Verdell will need to string together another 1,000 yards season if Oregon is to have any success. As sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough likely feels his way out as starter the junior ball-carrier will be heavily relied upon. Just a hair under 200 carries on the season in 2019, Verdell is likely to hit that number once again even with the Ducks’ depth at the position.
Where to begin on a phenomenal 2019 season for the California native. Not only does he cap off his season as Pac-12 Championship game MVP, but he wins a Rose Bowl in the state he grew up in. Verdell finished on both the AP and coaches Pac-12 All-Conference second team in a dominating 2019 season. Eclipsing 1,000 yards for the second time in his career, as a sophomore the running back totaled 200 more yards than he did as a freshman. Finishing with 1,220 yards and eight touchdowns, Verdell averaged a modest 6.2 YPA; appearing in all 14 games while starting in 10. His 1,220 yards ranked him second among ball carriers in rushing yards.
The highlight of his season for the sophomore may have been becoming the first player in program history to accumulate more than 250 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving in a game; or, it just might have came in his Pac-12 title game performance rushing for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Nearly breaking fellow Oregon Duck LaMichael James’ record of 219 yards in a Pac-12 title game. The accolades didn’t stop at All-Conference second team as Verdell was named as a PFF All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Following his red-shirt season Verdell bursted onto the scene as a red-shirt freshman, showcasing his versatility from the backfield as he became the Duck’s primary back. Playing in all 13 games and starting in five, Verdell was the only Power 5 player in the nation to total 1,000 plus rushing yards and 300 or more receiving yards. On 202 carries the freshman back ran for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. Verdell was one of eight FBS freshman to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and only the third Duck in program history to do so as a freshman.
His top performance as a freshman was good enough to produce the second-best single-game rushing performance in program history with 187 yards and five total touchdowns. Becoming the first player since 2016 with four rushing touchdowns and one receiving in the same game. Verdell was named on the PFF Pac-12 Week 13 Team of the Week and the Pac-12’s Week 7 Offensive Player of the Week.
Out of high school Verdell was highly touted for good reason. A four-star prospect, the Chula Vista native was a top 40 player in the state of California according to ESPN and 247 Sports. Named as a top 100 recruit on the west coast by the Tacoma News Tribune, Verdell was named the 2016 CIF San Diego Section Offensive Player of the Year. The four-star recruit had offers from nearly every Pac-12 school including Utah, UCLA, Washington State and both Arizona programs, before choosing Oregon. As a high school senior, Verdell rushed for 2,399 yards and 36 touchdowns; averaging 9.2 yards per carry. In the culmination of his high school career, the back amounted for an absurd 4,855 yards and 64 rushing touchdowns.