Northwest

CJ Verdell is chasing LaMichael James in the Oregon Ducks record books

Northwest

Oregon football running back CJ Verdell has lofty expectations for himself in 2020.

Despite the fact the Pac-12 is only playing a seven-game shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Ducks workhorse remains set on reaching his 1,000-yard milestone for a third-straight year.

“My dad always told me to shoot past the stars and if you fall short, you’ll be amongst the stars,” Verdell said. 

So, I always set my goals really high for myself and so I definitely look forward to hopefully accomplishing that.

- CJ Verdell

If the three-year starter can accomplish the 1,000-yard feat, he’ll join legendary Ducks running back LaMichael James in becoming just the second Oregon player to rush for 1,000 yards in three-consecutive seasons.

In order to reach the exclusive milestone, Verdell would need to average over 100 yards per game. James accomplished the feat while playing 12 games in all three of his seasons.

“I’d definitely like to reach that 1,000-yard mark once again, definitely a big goal of mine,” Verdell said. “To be honest, I haven’t really focused on a lot of personal goals. I’m just definitely focused on what I can do to help better the team.”

The Ducks are back in action for the first time since March 12 when the coronavirus pandemic halted the college football world. During that time, Oregon lost five players including offensive lineman Penei Sewell and defensive stalwarts like Jevon Holland, Thomas Graham and Brady Breeze, who opted out of the college football return.

[RELATED: A committee of Oregon Ducks in line to replace Penei Sewell at left tackle]

 

For Verdell, there was never a doubt he’d be back in Eugene prepping for practice in full pads.  

“To be honest, that never crossed my mind, not even once,” Verdell said. “I always knew that I wanted to come back and play for Oregon...

I knew I felt like I had a lot more to give to the university and football team so yeah, leaving or opting out, never really crossed my mind.

-- CJ Verdell

Luckily for the Ducks, their top three running backs all chose to return in 2020.

Verdell, the Pac-12’s leading rusher, will be joined by an accomplished cast of Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who have both been productive in their own right, along with a trio of young talent in Sean Dollars, Jayvaun Wilson and Trey Benson.

Oregon, will however, have some big shoes to fill with former quarterback Justin Herbert now one of the NFL’s rising stars and all five offensive line starters now departed.

Verdell knows that the running backs group will be asked to lead, and they are up for the challenge.

“We’ve talked as a group. We said we’re the veteran group of the offense,” Verdell said. “We’re the ones who have a lot of returners besides the receivers. So, I do think it’s on us to make sure that we’re always heading in the right direction and take control of the offense.”