College football is back! The Ducks begin fall camp on Monday so we're breaking down each position to determine if the Ducks, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, and their fans will be smelling roses as Pac-12 champs during a trip to the Rose Bowl, or placing bets at a roulette table prior to watching a sixth-place UO team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Each position is graded using the poker hand scale.
Today: Running backs.
Projected starter: Junior Royce Freeman (5-11, 230) returns for his third season as the lead back with school records and a Heisman Trophy in his sights.
Smelling like roses: Freeman should be a candidate for Pac-12 offensive player of the year, and possibly the Heisman Trophy, while he chases LaMichael James' career rushing record of 5,802 yards and his rushing touchdowns record of 53. Freeman needs 1,880 yards and 19 touchdowns to break both records. Should he do his thing and attack both records, Freeman would also be giving the Ducks what they need to contend in the Pac-12.
Behind Freeman are three running backs all fully capable for rushing for 1,000 yards as a starter, giving the Ducks an embarrassment of riches.
Griffin, the speedster, rushed for 570 yards last season while averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Brooks-James, also quite fast, gained 288 yards last season. Benoit, last season's primary backup, rushed for 364 yards.
Place your bets: Oregon could suffer two serious injuries at this position and still be okay. Any combination of the three backups would produce a quality running game capable of getting the Ducks to the Pac-12 title game. Should three go down, the Ducks could be in trouble. That scenario is unlikely.
Odds are: Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell always does a good job of balancing the workload for his starter while finding optimal spots to get production out of the backups. That will continue this season. This group will be fun to watch.
Poker hand: Full house. The Ducks are stacked with both depth and versatility. Never before has Oregon had a more eclectic group of running backs. They will be a major strength of this team, and certainly are championship-caliber.
Next up: Wide receivers/tight ends.