'If you blink you might miss him': On CJ Verdell and the potential end of an era at Oregon
Only injuries could slow one of the most explosive running backs in program history
(CJ Verdell after Oregon’s win at the 2020 Rose Bowl. Eric Evans/GoDucks.com)
In Tony Brooks-James’ final days ahead of CJ Verdell on Oregon’s depth chart, the then-Oregon senior gave a scouting report on the redshirt freshman running back.
“He’s all the hype. All the hype,” Brooks-James said at fall camp in 2018. “He’s a hard runner. He’s a student of the game. He’s disciplined. He can fit between the tackles or straight up demolish a linebacker. He’s very stocky and strong.”
The report was spot on.
The 5-foot-8 Verdell could sneak through cracks, but at 210 pounds he more often chose to lay the lumber. Pound for pound, he may have been the most punishing running back in Oregon history, tallying 1,000-plus yards in each of his first two seasons as Oregon’s lead runner.
It was a style that could wear a back down, and the last two years it caught up with Verdell. On Saturday, playing “his most physical game,” as coach Mario Cristobal said, he left in the second half with a leg injury. Cristobal confirmed on Thursday it was season-ending. And while Verdell has another year left of eligibility, a return would be for a sixth season with a stable of hungry runners behind him.
“It’s too early,” Cristobal said. “There will be some conversations about that. He’s such a good player.”