After a breakout freshman year, Byron Cardwell could secure the starting running back job for Oregon football with a strong Alamo Bowl showing.
A freshman year cannot get any more eventful than what Byron Cardwell and the rest of the 2021 Oregon football class experienced.
Byron Cardwell went through plenty of ups and downs on his own. The former four-star running back from the 2021 class came in with another talented back and he found his way into the regular rotation despite CJ Verdell and Travis Dye returning for their junior seasons.
It was all set up for Cardwell to likely redshirt and come back in 2022 to battle for some snaps, but he worked his way into the rotation because of the season-ending injury to Verdell as well as an injury to Sean Dollars. Dye had his struggles and Mario Cristobal needed a spark in the backfield so he called upon Cardwell who stepped up and had some breakout performances.
It all started on Oct. 30 against Colorado when he had seven carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. Right then and there, everyone knew what he was capable of. He followed that up with a 55-yard performance against Washington on a career-high 16 carries, 98 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries vs. Wazzu, and a combined 14 carries for 80 yards over his final three games — two showings against Utah.
Cardwell finished the regular season with 400 yards and three touchdowns on 7.3 yards per carry. He was a revelation in this offense for Joe Moorhead.
With the Alamo Bowl approaching, he has a big opportunity opening up.
Who will be Oregon football’s RB1 in 2022?
Dye and Verdell haven’t announced what their plans on for the 2022 season so that leaves the door open for Cardwell to come in and take that starting role under Dan Lanning.
The new head coach will be taking in Oregon’s bowl game and probably scouting his starters for next year and if Cardwell has another big game, it’ll be tough to say he doesn’t deserve the starting job, especially if both Dye and Verdell are gone.
Even if Dye returns and Cardwell has a big game, I think you’ll have to consider him as the best option in the backfield moving forward. Use Dye more on passing downs and Cardwell can be the workhorse back.
A big game for Cardwell against Oklahoma’s No. 23 run defense will go a long way and it could give him a leg up on the competition for 2022 under Lanning.