As a running back, having a 1,000+ yard season as one of your goals is pretty common at any playing level.
Having 1,000+ yards in a shortened, seven-game season (averaging roughly 143 yards per game) seems like a tall task for anyone.
Anyone except CJ Verdell.
Someone who has extreme confidence that the senior Ducks running back can accomplish just that is Oregon third-year running backs coach Jim Mastro.
For someone who has been coaching for 31 years, Mastro has never seen someone like Verdell in the backfield.
“I’m glad he has a goal of 1,000 yards because that would mean he had a heck of a year in seven, eight, nine games,” said Mastro. “CJ’s skillset is unique. It’s different than I’ve ever seen before. He does things that are just, I want to say freakish. People don’t really appreciate it unless you’re a coach and you see it the way we see it.
Mastro pointed out some of those freakish qualities Verdell possess: Vision; the ability to stop and start on a dime; the way he gets from zero to one hundred in one step… things Duck fans have taken note of since Verdell first took the field as a redshirt-freshman in 2018.
“Usually kids are good at one or the other. But he can do all those things very well,” said Mastro. “… he can do it all. When he goes, he goes. He’s fun to watch. You watch him in practice and you wouldn’t know the difference between a practice and a game. That’s how hard he practices every single play. It’s impressive to watch.”
In his two seasons as Oregon’s lead back, Verdell has posted over 1,000+ yards in each season as well as 10 touchdowns in 2018 and eight more in 2019. He is just one of seven returning FBS players to rush for 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons.
How will the Ducks continue to feed Verdell and this deep running back room in first-year Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead’s system? Just give them the ball in space.
“Run game wise not a lot different. It will be the same and a little bit more variance to it,” said Mastro. “But the run game is similar to what we did in the past. There’s a few tweaks to it and a few things that will get our guys in space a little bit more but it will be generally the same but with some variations of it that will get our guys in space a little bit more than we did in the past.”
This will continue more with the pistol formation that Mastro developed in his time at Nevada.
As for the coaching relationship between Mastro and Moorhead, the chemistry is there as well.
“I never met Joe before he got here but he’s a ball coach now, he’s just like us man. He eats, drinks and sleeps football,” said Mastro. “I love his offense, I love what he does. It’s been fun. He always wanted to run the pistol and didn’t really know about it, so now that we’ve had these months together, he’s like ‘Man, I love this. I wish I would have known about this before.’
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