Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton has stated the Ducks will be running the ball much more this year and the team has spent a lot of time developing more wrinkles in the running game for this upcoming year. This has clearly already started to pay dividends in fall camp.
With fall camp now past the mid-point, there is one common trait from all the practices and scrimmages -- the successful run game.
The Ducks have been using everybody to run the ball so far. Most of the success has come from where expected -- the running backs. Jonathan Stewart was given plenty of reps in the first week of practice when Jeremiah Johnson and Chris Vincent were dinged up. With Stewart doing so well in camp, coaches and fans alike are starting to expect big numbers from the heralded recruit out of Lacey, Washington.
Johnson's development in the second week of fall camp is evident as we see him becoming a more flashing-quick runner with bruising power. The biggest surprise though has been the emergence of Remene Alston, a freshmen running back who is new on the scene. Alston has been busting long runs day in and day out, and has shown incredible speed to turn the corner and blaze up field. Don't be surprised to see Alston get a good hard look for special teams or taking over the role recently departed sophomore Terrell Jackson had carried in the spring.
The run game has also benefited from the great choices made by the man at the helm of the offense, the QB. Dennis Dixon, No. 1 on the depth chart from the start of fall camp, has made numerous big runs in 11-on-11 drills and has also been able to read defenses to perfection and know which man to pitch or hand off to in the option play. When the pitchman is not the clear choice, Dixon has been able to slash and dash his way through the line and get up field for good yardage. Brady Leaf surprisingly has become quicker and continues to show his speed, while not breathtaking, isn't all that bad. Leaf like Dixon has also been able to read the defense, and act accordingly on whom to get the ball to on the option. Both signal callers have been making plays for themselves, running backs, and now are including the speedy wide outs in the run game.
Now in the second year of Crowton's spread offense, look to see more running plays with the Oregon wide outs. And don't you think for one second the Duck receivers won't be up to the challenge of getting the ball in a way unusual to most receivers. Throughout fall camp there have been flashes of brilliance of the running game going through the wide outs. Most notably Kyle Weatherspoon has been using his quick first step and good speed to turn corners and get up field in a hurry once. Another receiver who has been making plays for the Duck's running game has been James Finley. Like Weatherspoon, Finley has been able to use his quick first step to his advantage and been able to shift and juke his way through fall camp.
Finley and Weatherspoon have been a nice surprise, but there are a few Duck receivers the coaches are sure hoping to see get in on the action. Brian Paysinger and Derrick Jones both have blazing speed. With the running game developing its ties with the receivers, don't be surprised to see these two names also appear for big plays and touchdowns in the future.
With so many options for this year's running game, who and what area will coaches from opposing teams try to shut down? Clearly this group of Ducks are ready to run their way to success instead of the usual aerial approach through the sky.
So with all the talent available most likely there won't be much chance for one of the big men to tote the ball. Not that they don't want to -- it's just the linemen will be busy opening holes for some unexpected ball carriers.