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Coming out of the 2021 college football season, the Oregon Ducks seemed to have an embarrassment of riches at the running back position.
Travis Dye was coming off of the best season of his career, Byron Cardwell had impressed in his first year in college, and Seven McGee had grown nicely into a slot-receiver type position that utilized his strengths in the offense. On top of that, you had Trey Benson getting some looks while holding onto his redshirt for the year, as well as Sean Dollars waiting in the wing. To make the situation even sweeter, CJ Verdell still held onto the option of whether or not he wanted to return for one more go-around with the Ducks or stay in the 2022 NFL draft.
The RB room looks quite a bit different now. Last week, Dye announced that he would be entering the transfer portal, though he was still weighing a return to Oregon or entering the NFL draft. Benson also announced his transfer to Florida State on Tuesday, while new head coach Dan Lanning had to convince both McGee and Dollars to stay in Eugene after the pair had entered the portal as well.
What once looked like a depth chart that was potentially six players deep now is dangerously close to entering spring ball with just 3 viable options, two of whom had to be convinced to return to the program.
That’s what makes Verdell’s upcoming decision so massively important for the Oregon Ducks. As one of the best RBs in Oregon history—Verdell currently sits at No. 6 on the Ducks’ all-time rushing list—another season in Eugene would bring a massive boost to Lanning’s first team. If Verdell were to return, he would bring with him 2,920 career rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns, with a chance to make a big jump up that career list and solidify himself as one of the best players in Oregon history. It would also create an explosive dynamic where you could pair him with Cardwell in the backfield, and create an extravagant smashmouth style that would be difficult to defend.
That’s if he returns, though. Without Verdell—or Dye— on the roster, then the Ducks will enter the 2022 season with an RB depth chart that has just 91 combined carries for 606 yards and 4 touchdowns.
That’s an inexperienced group at what is historically the best position on the field in Eugene.