2021 Oregon Football Preview: The CJ Verdell Alert System
I don't need my phone to tell me when it's 100 degrees outside, and I don't need watchlists to tell me that CJ Verdell is good.
If you live in the Portland Metro Area, chances are that your mid-Friday morning was brutally interrupted by a gnarly phone alert telling you that it was hot outside.
The alert reminded me of when Amanda Seyfried’s Mean Girls character said that her talent of “ESPN” allowed her to know when it’s raining outside.
I didn’t exactly need my phone to tell me that my AC unit was working overtime during the seventh heat wave of the week.
But the alert gave me an idea for a far more valuable and interesting alert that I’d like to send to all Oregon fans—and the rest of the college football world, for that matter.
ADVISORY: CJ VERDELL IS STILL VERY GOOD AT FOOTBALL AND CAN STILL RUN OVER ANYONE.
CJ was named second-team all-conference by this year’s Pac-12 Media, and based on how banged up and flukey last year was, I can pretty much understand why folks from the outside have allowed CJ’s talent to escape their minds.
But I wonder if even the most loyal Duck fans have also forgotten just how good CJ is.
Let’s just talk about his biggest 2019 performances for a second:
171 yards on Colorado, 257 against Wazzu (it was Wazzu, but 257 is still the fourth best single game performance in UO history), and then 208 on Utah in the Pac-12 Title Game—an admittedly overrated Utah run defense, but it was still probably the biggest statement perfomance by an Oregon running back since LaMike’s Statement, Statement, Statement.
Big picture-wise, Verdell has six career games with 11+ yards per carry, and he’s also a 2,500 yard career rusher over what has essentially been two seasons. He enters 2021 as the ninth leading rusher at Oregon all-time. Another 1,000 yard season will put him at fourth on that list—101 more yards on top of that would push him up to third.
Look, I’ll concede that last year was a disappointing one for CJ. He’d probably agree with you on that.
Maybe he was more hurt than we’ll ever know; maybe the Covid Year was extra tough on him; it was probably a combination of a whole bunch of factors; but I don’t believe that any of his missteps have been enough to negate his upside as Oregon’s top threat in the run game.
Obviously, we know that Moorhead’s RPO has a very special place for both CJ and Travis Dye. Dye’s cannonball speed and talent as a receiver makes him an easy 1B to CJ’s 1A. However, I’ll be standing at the gates of Autzen and personally confirming that the two of them have received both doses of the fumble-itis vaccine.
We must stop the spread at all costs.
Also, CJ, Travis, and even AB will benefit greatly in the run game now that they get to play behind an offensive line that is that much more experienced.
I’m confident that an improved offensive front, Moorhead’s complete run scheme, and the one-two-punch of CJ and Travis will make Oregon as dangerous on the ground as they look to be through the air.
With Sean Dollars out for the foreseeable future, it seems like redshirt freshman Trey Benson has slowly emerged as the leader in the clubhouse for the role of RB3. Benson put on five pounds of muscle over the last year, and Verdell himself spoke very highly of him at Oregon’s Media Day.
Big Boi’s son Cross Patton could see some early season/garbage time play too, but the undersized walk-on might still be about thirty-five pounds short of having a significant role in the offense.
Barring any injuries, true freshman Seven McGee will probably redshirt, but he can do that while also ending up as the leading rusher against Stony Brook. If he did that, however, that would ultimately open the floodgates for NegaDucks to call for him every single time CJ rushes for a gain of one.
I, for one, welcome that kind of chaos in fandom with open arms. But that’s because I’m a dreamer.
Anyway, please consider this your long-winded alert/reminder to put some respect on CJ Verdell’s name.