What percentage of the passes will Oregon Ducks freshman running backs get against Cal?
Travis Dye will be assisting Oregons rushing attack during the second half, but he won't be the only one.
The No. 9 Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) have freshmen Trey Benson, Seven McGee, and Byron Cardwell Jr. to call upon for the rest of the season, starting Friday against Cal (1-4, 0-2 Pac-13).
A lot of these young guys have to step up a lot more and they might not have anticipated to this early, but were going to be alright, Dye said. Theyre hungry for it, they want it. I have complete confidence in it, says Dr. McIlroy, its going to define itself, who it is going be, and whoever it might be.
Cardwell has six receptions for 22 yards, McGee has four reception reception calls for 15 yards and a 27-yard catch, and Benson has three reception drives for 11 yards with eight touchdowns this season.
After CJ Verdells season-ending injury, their share of the carries is likely to rise. Who is Dye's backup and who is the third back could differ by week, as it has done so far.
Ryan Walk, the offensive guard's assistant, stated, "Theyre explosive." Theyre extremely talented, according to him. Theyve got a decent burst of energy. Byron can run through arm tackles, and he can do anything. Sevens incredibly dynamic nature is a testament to this. Trey has a physical back and he has an explosiveness to him. I look forward to watching those guys this week, he said.
Verdell averaged 17.2 touches per game, while Dye is averaging solitary 13.3. Even if Dyes workload rises by four or five touches per game, a trio of freshmen who have only scored about two touches each game will still have 10-12 touches available.
(Dye) works his tail off and hes been working his head off, quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. said. Not that CJ hasnt been. CJ and him have always been friends, but with their younger backs, they may also carry that load much more effectively than they might imagine. Travis back wont be more burdened than it would be before. Everybodys ready, everyone is prepared.
They have more confidence than they have ever had before, and Im just thrilled to see them play in a game setting, says the coach.
Pass protection is one area where younger backs must prove themselves in order to get on the field in the first place.
Running backs coach Jim Mastro, who called the plays against Stanford and will again if offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead cant return on Friday (7:30 p.m., ESPN), makes pass protection a requirement.
Mario Cristobal, Oregons coach, said, We believe theyre game ready. The way that we rotate, the way we structure the reps from camp all the the time until now, theyre pretty evenly distributed. That group has had a lot of reps and theyve performed well to the point where we believe they're game ready. There isn't a moment of hesitation or reservation. Well let it eat.
Still, live game reps against Cals defense will be more intense than anything UO's three freshmen have faced in their limited chances so far, especially in pass protection.
Brandon Dorlus, the Ducks defensive lineman, said hes been able to welcome McGee and Cardwell to pass protection when the first-team defense takes on the scout team in practice.
I see them every day, Dorlus said. Of course, I know that theyre intimidated by me. Every time Im in the locker room, they talk about it.