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Previewing the 2018 Beavers: Running Backs

The Beavers have begun the search for the next Ryan Nall.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Oregon State Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first part in a series where we check in on the how each position on the football team is coming together. First up, the running backs.


Who’s Gone

Ryan Nall - I’m not sure there’s a bigger loss for the Beavers this offseason. Nall has been the centerpiece of the Beavers offense the past couple seasons, and with the Quarterback position in disarray, Oregon State will have to rely on the running game that much more.

While he didn’t quite match his numbers from 2016, Nall was the most productive member of the Beavers offense last year, with 810 yards rushing, 240 yards receiving, and 10 total touchdowns.

Nall declared for the NFL Draft after the season ended, and this weekend was at the NFL Combine, where he put up some impressive numbers. He’s currently graded to be a late round draft pick.

Thomas Tyner - Earlier this year Tyner decided not to petition the NCAA to grant him a sixth year of eligibility, ending his college career. Tyner originally played for Oregon, before getting a medical retirement in 2016. Tyner came back to the game last year, joining Oregon State, and was the team’s third leading rusher, with 297 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Trevorris Johnson - Johnson transferred from TCU before the start of the season, and at the time it looked like he bolster a strong unit. Instead, the running game disappointed a long with the rest of the team, and Johnson never really got the chance to break out. He finished with only 106 yards and 3 touchdowns, enough to be the team’s fourth leading rusher.

Telly Lockette - The former Running Backs Coach is gone in the complete reshuffle of the coaching staff. The team’s running game seemed to struggle with the rest of the team, taking a step back after the 2016 season, which after the high profile additions in the off season was especially disappointing. Lockette is now the Tight Ends Coach at Florida State.


Who’s Here

Artavis Pierce - Pierce is in line to be the main back for the Beavers, at least at the start of the year. Pierce has been the team’s primary option behind Nall the last two seasons, with 323 yards and one touchdown in 2017.

Pierce could be a nice stable piece to build the new offense around. The quarterback position is seeing a lot of turnover, so the offense will probably be ground based. Pierce has easily the most experience in the backfield, and despite a new system coming in, I’d expect him to start the season getting the majority of carries.

Calvin Tyler Jr. - Tyler saw hardly any play in the backfield his Freshman season, with only three carries. He did see some action as a kick returner, with 9 returns and an average of 20.2 yards per return. With so much turnover at the top of the depth chart, it’s time for Tyler and the rest of the young players to make their names known. I’d pencil Tyler in at number two for now, but we’ll have to see who’s looking good out of spring practice to be sure.

B.J. Baylor - Tyler’s fellow 2017 recruit, Baylor got a redshirt while Tyler got some limited action. Along with Tyler, Baylor will be looking to establish himself this spring, before the new recruits arrive over the summer. With only three main backs ready to go for spring practice, they’ll should all get quite a bit of action.

Hunter Mattson - Mattson is a walk on who has seen time with the scout team, but not in an actual game.

Michael Pitre - Our new Running Backs Coach. Pitre was most recently the running backs coach for Montana State, which found success at the FCS level.


Recruits

Kase Rogers - Oregon State’s first running back commit, Rogers has a lot of flexibility, as he has also played Wide Receiver and returned kicks. He’s expected to see time mostly at Running Back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him returning kicks first, much like Calvin Tyler last season. Here’s what Building the Dam had to say when Rogers signed his letter of intent late last year.

Jermar Jefferson - Jefferson is a 3 star recruit from Redondo Beach, who was ranked 41st in the Running Back class. Check out what Building the Dam has to say here for more about Jefferson. He’s likely to Red Shirt this season, but will be an interesting piece to build around in the next few years.


What to Expect

First off, take a deep breath and watch this.

Isn’t that nice? It may be some time before we get something that cool, but we’ll get there eventually.

The most likely scenario coming out of the Spring is Artavis Pierce getting the nod as the number one option, with Tyler and Baylor splitting time as his back ups. Even if Tyler and Baylor step up and make some noise in the spring, I think Pierce’s experience wins out.

The other big question is what to do with the commits. The Running Back roster still feels pretty thin, so I wouldn’t be shocked if one or both of them saw some play in their first year. It seems more likely for Rogers, who could contribute early on Special Teams.

Projected Depth Chart

  1. Artavis Pierce
  2. Calvin Tyler, Jr.
  3. B.J. Baylor
  4. Kase Rogers

Jermar Jefferson (Redshirt)

Building the Dam will be doing previews for all of the Beavers position groups, so check in every day during the week to see how the team’s shaping up!