Oregon Ducks

Oregon's Taj Griffin is back, hungry and dangerous

When Oregon junior Taj Griffin took a pass over the middle 20 yards to the end zone in the second quarter of the team's 49-13 win at Wyoming on Saturday, running back Royce Freeman was one of the first teammates to greet him.

"I was trying to rush to the end zone once he scored as fast as I could to give my man some love," the senior captain said.

It was a big moment for Griffin, who hadn't played in a game since an ACL tear during a non-contact drill late last season cost him the final three games of the year.

"It was definitely great to get back out there," Griffin said.

Griffin said he probably could have played in No. 24 Oregon's first two games. But, given that he had missed spring drills and remained limited during fall camp, he thought it best to wait until he was completely 100 percent healthy. That time has come and the lightening-fast and elusive playmaker is ready to contribute. 

"He is a lethal weapon, especially if we use him correctly," Freeman said. "He can do a lot of great things for us."

How exactly will be used? As a running back or as a receiver?

"I like both," he said. "Wherever I can get the ball in space and help my team out."

The 5-foot-11, 178-pound Griffin, recruited as a running back, is listed as a wide receiver on the team's depth chart but received six carries for 35 yards at Wyoming in addition to his lone reception. 

Griffin isn't quite as electric as for UO star De'Anthony Thomas was, and he isn't as polished as senior receiver Charles Nelson. Still, Griffin is a lethal combination of both that could prove to be a wild card for the Ducks this season and a force in the future. 

Oregon is very deep at running back with Freeman, senior Kani Benoit and redshirt junior Tony Brook-James. The receiver position, however, is a lot thinner behind Nelson. Griffin is now listed as the backup slot behind Nelson. In the long run, that ultimately could be Griffin's best position given his lack of ideal size at running back. 

"I'm not the biggest guy, frame wise," he said. 

Thomas, who played at Oregon at 5-9, 175-pounds, moved to receiver his freshman year and ultimately got drafted into the NFL as a receiver by Kansas City.  Griffin has a similar skillset and is hoping to take over the starting slot position next year after Nelson has moved on to the NFL. 

"I'm definitely work towards that," Griffin said. 

For his career, Griffin has 788 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 120 carries and 271 yards receiving 18 receptions for three scores. 

Nelson is currently nursing a sprained ankle but is likely to play Saturday at Arizona State. If not, or even if he's simply limited, we could see a lot more of Griffin in Tempe, Ariz.  

UO wide receivers coach Michael Johnson said Griffin is still learning the position but certainly presents some firepower and will be used in certain situations.  

"When he gets the ball in his hands in space, he is a dynamic player," Johnson said.