Marshall ready to answer the call for Ducks

It's almost as if Byron Marshall needs to ask, "hey, what about me?"

The Oregon sophomore is a tad more subtle in talking about his situation, but in all the discussion of the Ducks plans at running back for this season, it's Marshall who is seemingly being slighted as the media analyzes how the Ducks replace Kenjon Barner.

Marshall did, after all, carry the football 87 times last season and average 5.1 yards per rush as a true freshman. He's come back for this season lighter, stronger, faster and in better condition, he said.

And, yet, aren't the primary questions at running back whether De'Anthony Thomas can handle more of a load and whether touted freshman Thomas Tyner can make a significant contribution immediately?

Well, how about Marshall?

"It's not my job to control what other people talk about," he said. "I just know that I'm going to come in here every day to work my butt off and show these coaches what I have."

And that is?

"That they can trust me and they can have faith in me on an every-down level," Marshall said. "If I get that, then everything will be good.

"I just need to prove myself and whatever that takes, I'm going to do it."

Replacing Barner as Oregon's primary rusher — and remember last season when the question was how he would hold up as the every-down back? — leaves the Ducks with plenty of appealing options.

There is the possibility of more carries for the explosive Thomas, who averaged 7.6 yards on his 92 rushes last season. There's the intrigue of whether Tyner, one of the state's all-time great prep running backs, can do on this level what he did in high school. And surely fellow freshman Kani Benoit will be given his opportunity to burst upon the scene as well.

And then there's Marshall. A key for him, coach Mark Helfrich said this week, is how he handled his preparations for this season.

"Is he ready to go? Is he committed to all the facets of being a great tailback?" Helfrich asked. "So far, so good on that front."

The evaluation of the tailbacks can begin in more earnest today, when the Ducks don full pads for the first time. Helfrich, only partially joking, compared judging running backs when players aren't in pads and there isn't tackling to test-driving a Ferrari where the speed limit is 25 mph. Who can really see what it can do?

"As soon as we put the pads on and things get more realistic, we can start to project," Helfrich said.

Even then, he added, the rotation and roles for the running backs will be a process of evaluating even beyond fall camp.

"You're not going to have all that stuff ironed out in the first quarter of the season even," Helfrich said, adding that game plans could even alter it further.

However or whenever it works out, Marshall wants in, and "with a bigger role for myself" than last season, he asserted.

Most of his time in 2012 came in mop-up roles as Oregon romped over Arkansas State, Tennessee Tech, Colorado and Washington. Marshall showed some endurance, with 24 carries in one game, and compiled 125 rushing yards in another contest, and there were a handful of highlights, with a long run of 32 yards against the Huskies.

Still, it was the proverbial scratching of the surface in his introduction to college football.

"A lot has happened since last year for me as a player and a person," Marshall said. "As a person, I'm more comfortable with the game, understanding the routines. ... It's a little overwhelming at first and it's a lot to take in and handle.

"Now you know how everything works."

And if it all works out, it could mean no more wondering where Marshall fits in for the Ducks.


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