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Oregon State Football: 2020 Position Preview - Running Backs

Who will take some of the workload off Jermar Jefferson in the Beavers backfield?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Situation

Now that running back Artavis Pierce is onto the next level, veteran star in waiting Jermar Jefferson is ready to take the full-time reigns coming out of the backfield and see the majority of the workload. It’s a change that should be seamless, as Jefferson split carries almost evenly last year, while still finding ways to post three games in which he ran for over 100 yards. If anything, there’s belief that Jefferson would’ve been more explosive with more of the carries than Pierce was, as a true natural running back and not just a speedy talent.

In terms of the bulk of the carries in 2020, I’d say a 65-25 split between Jefferson and back-up BJ Baylor is probably in the cards. Baylor was a third-stringer last year who still found a way to tally 3 touchdowns, primarily used as a change-up option, but has a really likeable skill-set. He runs in a similar style to Jefferson and is deceiving elusive, especially at the second level. He has some concerns in terms of breakaway speed, but overall, his best football is still in front of him and he’ll be a very welcome piece to Oregon State’s backfield.

The Running Backs

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Oregon State at Cal
BJ Baylor is a strong back-up for Jermar Jefferson, who should be able to take the next step in 2020.
Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • #2 - Calvin Tyler Jr. (RS JR / 5’ 8”, 200 lbs)
  • #6 - Jermar Jefferson (JR / 5’ 10”, 210 lbs)
  • #20 - BJ Baylor (RS JR / 5’ 11”, 210 lbs)
  • #21 - Trey Lowe (RS SO / 5’ 8”, 180 lbs)
  • #23 - Ta’Ron Madison (RS FR / 6’ 1”, 215 lbs)
  • #29 - Kanoa Shannon (RS SO / 5’ 8”, 180 lbs)
  • #31 - Connor Morton (RS SO / 5’ 9”, 175 lbs)
  • #32 - Mikey Alfieri (RS SO / 6’ 0”, 195 lbs)

The Skinny

Oregon State v Colorado
Jermar Jefferson could return to his freshman form in 2020, as the lead running back option for Oregon State.
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Towards the end of last season, Jermar Jefferson posted 183 yards on 31 carries against Hawaii in a game which affirmed his staying power as a legitimate Pac-12 running back. It was a throwback to his freshman season, when as the main option, he ran for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns. I personally think Jefferson and Baylor are a really underrated combination in terms of how they can compliment and produce throughout a campaign. With Gebbia moving into a full-time role, the Beavers will need a stable run-game to rely on to ease his transition and this duo should be able to do just that.

In general, not counting the teams who have a true all-star option coming out of the backfield, most teams are operating in a two-back system that fits their offensive style. The days of the workhorse, overloaded running back are mostly gone (unless you’re the Tennessee Titans and have Derrick Henry), but Oregon State still has to answer some questions about their offensive line. It doesn’t matter all that much who is carrying the rock, if these guys don’t have the time to find their holes and pick their spots.

Above, I noted a 65-25 split between Jefferson and Baylor, which for all the math majors out there leaves about 10% of the carries to be handled. I’d expect Calvin Tyler Jr. to pick these up, as he’s a speedier, more scat-back type of role-filler. I wouldn’t forget about Ta’Ron Madison either, as the rising sophomore will be a more bruising option with a 6’ 1”, 215-pound frame.

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