Heading into the 2020 college football season, redshirt freshman running back Sean Dollars was one of the talks of training camp.
"He's different this year,” Cyrus Habibi-Likio said about Dollars. “He has a lot more hustle to him. He’s not as fatigued, and he worked a lot on his running as well. I think just mentality-wise too, I think he got that year under his belt. He’s come in aggressive and he’s hitting people. He’s picking up blocks which is huge in our offense."
On Friday evening during the Pac-12 Championship, Duck fans and the nation got a taste of Dollars' talent which made him the country's No. 2 All-Purpose Back in 2019.
In Oregon's (4-2) 31-24 upset victory over USC (5-1) in the Pac-12 Championship, Dollars was thrust into the largest workload of his career with three-year starter CJ Verdell out for undisclosed reasons.
The result? Seven carries for 52 yards including multiple key runs in the second half. He had just one carry for -5 yards heading into the contest on the season, but the Ducks coaching staff knew it was a matter of time before Dollars made an impact on offense.
"We knew it was going to happen," said Mario Cristobal.
After the game, the Oregon head coach raved about the freshman's talent.
"His future is through the roof. I mean, there's no ceiling on him."
While Ducks fans hadn't seen much of Dollars on the field, the Oregon program knew it had a gem on its hands since last season when he simulated being Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor on the scout team offense leading up to the Rose Bowl.
"It all started last year during the season, especially during the Rose Bowl practices when he was simulating Wisconsin's offense and he was just ripping and running and we were like 'Whoa. This guy is now hitting a different level,'" remembered Cristobal.
Dollars has seen limited playing time as a redshirt freshman sitting behind CJ Verdell, Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio on the depth chart. Instead of running the rock, Dollars had been making his presence felt on special teams leading into Friday.
"He's been practicing really well. He's been covering kicks and punts and it was time. It was time and he was awesome... He's a great team player," said Cristobal.
Perhaps Dollars will see an increased role in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2021.