For about as long as Oregon has been a notable football program in this century, it’s been a team that runs the ball primarily off tackle.
Under new head coach Mario Cristobal and running backs coach Jim Mastro, that’s changing, according to the lone holdover from last year’s group.
“He’s taught me a different footwork pattern,” Brooks-James said of Mastro, according to DuckTerritory.com’s Erik Skopil. “It’s really working out for us as a group. Just to be patient and hit the holes full tilt.”
Stretch runs — a bedrock play for the Ducks when running out of a single-back set — typically don’t allow for backs to reach the line of scrimmage with a full head of steam. Neither do option runs. Oregon has done plenty of this in the last decade-plus, and while they aren’t moving away from it, emphasizing an ability to run inside the tackles can only help the Ducks offense going forward.
“I can run through the tackles,” Brooks-James explained. “But I’m not real used to running through the tackles every down. So, it’s kind of an adjustment.”
An adjustment, but a good one. What was once an uncomfortable set of steps and location of handoff can now become just as natural. For a young group that counts Brooks-James as its veteran leader, versatility will be key as the others get their feet wet.
Brooks-James had his most successful season in 2016, when he had 101 carries for 771 yards and 9 touchdowns. For his career, he’s had 226 carries for 1,557 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also returned 14 kicks for 360 yards and 1 touchdown in 2017.