When it rains, it pours. Following Oregon football’s first loss of the 2021 season, Mario Cristobal announced on Thursday afternoon that his star running back would miss the remainder of the year.
CJ Verdell had gotten off to a heck of a start to his junior season, rushing for 406 yards and six touchdowns while also catching eight passes for 74 yards and a score. He was one of the main reasons the Ducks were able to go on the road and pick up a huge win at No. 3 Ohio State in Week 2.
And just like that, he’s done.
After suffering an injury and leaving the Stanford game hobbling, barely able to put any weight on his leg, everyone expected the worst. And that’s exactly what they got: worst-case scenario.
Verdell was one of my preseason Heisman contenders, albeit a darkhorse, and after beating Ohio State, he joined the conversation. But he has always been splitting carries with fellow junior back Travis Dye who’s a star in his own right. Verdell is RB1 to Dye’s RB1.5.
Now, it’s going to be up to Dye to shoulder the load, and he’s more than capable.
Don’t fret, Oregon football fans, Dye is the right guy for the job
If there was ever a team that could lose a player the caliber of Verdell at running back and be just fine, it’s Oregon. Sure, the depth took a big hit, but Dye has been prepared for this exact scenario for years. He’s one of the best backup running backs in college football.
In fact, he leads all Oregon running backs this season with a 6.4 yards per carry average and he was just behind Verdell with 382 yards and three scores on the season.
A year ago, he led Oregon in rushing with 443 yards and a touchdown on 6.9 yards per carry. The year before that (2019), he had 658 yards on 6.2 yards per touch. And as a freshman in 2018, he rushed for over 700 yards. So for his career, he’s gone over 2,000 yards and has never averaged under 5.3 yards per carry.
Losing Verdell hurts — badly — but Dye is more than capable of being ‘the guy’ in the backfield.