Mario Cristobal had a lot of injury updates to share at the start of spring football last week. Perhaps the most significant was a "pretty significant leg injury" for Oregon tailback Sean Dollars.
Dollars saw limited action last season, mainly in the Pac-12 championship against USC, when he rushing for 52 yards on 7 carries. The former 4-star and all-American from Santa Ana powerhouse Mater Dei is expected back "during the season at some point."
So what does that mean for the Ducks now in spring practice?
The Ducks return one of the stronger, if not the best, running back tandem in the Pac-12 with CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. Dye was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention a season ago and was undoubtedly the most electric weapon for Joe Moorhead. He's closing in on 3,000 career all-purpose yards as a Duck(2,664).
We know what the Ducks have in Verdell. He's a strong runner that has home run capability if he can get a couple good blocks and get in space.
The only problem?
He's bound to get hurt at some point next season. During his time at Oregon, Verdell has strung together two 1,000-yard seasons on the ground, but the injury bug has been somewhat of a constant for him. That's no slight to his ability--it just comes with the position and the physical brand of football the Ducks want to play.
He has a lot of tread on his tires.
So, with that in mind, the depth of this room comes into play. Who do the Ducks have behind Verdell and Dye?
Well, they did have Cyrus Habibi-Likio, but he transferred to Boise State following the 2020 season. Furthermore, Mario Cristobal said redshirt freshman Trey Benson is "progressing well" from a broken leg, but isn't expected back until the summer.
That leaves Oregon with two healthy scholarship running backs in Verdell and Dye, who are joined by walk-on Cross Patton.
Maybe we're all sleeping on Patton. Mario Cristobal highlighted him as one of many standouts from the first spring practice, saying, "He made a bunch of plays and did some things."
It's important to note that 2021 signees Byron Cardwell and Seven McGee aren't expected on campus until the summer. Even so, at this point McGee is expected to serve more as a slot receiver than a traditional running back.
The main takeaway here: the opportunity for snaps at RB 3 just got blown WIDE OPEN. Injuries are never a good thing, but if players are going to get dinged up, it almost seems better it happen now when you're five months away from facing Ohio State in the Shoe than during the regular season.
We'll be tracking this development throughout all of spring football and further down the line in fall camp.
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