EUGENE, Ore. -- When running back Byron Marshall signed to play football at Oregon two years ago, he knew he'd have to compete in a crowded backfield.
Kenjon Barner was Oregon's bona fide star in the backfield last season, and speedy sophomore De'Anthony Thomas was one of the country's most explosive players. Barner ran for 1,767 yards with 21 touchdowns in 2012, while Thomas ran for 701 yards with 11 scores.
Marshall, from Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif., had a solid freshman season, running 87 times for 447 yards with four touchdowns. When Barner departed after the 2012 season, Marshall was still supposed to take a back seat to Thomas this season.
But after Thomas sprained his ankle against California on Sept. 28, Marshall emerged as No. 3 Oregon's top running threat. Going into Thursday night's game at No. 5 Stanford, Marshall has gained more than 100 rushing yards in each of the past five games. Thomas started against then-No. 12 UCLA on Oct. 26, but reinjured his ankle in the second quarter. Marshall ran for 133 yards with three touchdowns in Oregon's 42-14 victory.
"I knew there would be competition coming in, especially with how many great backs that have come out of here year after year after year," Marshall said. "I never want to shy away from competition. I wouldn't go to a school just because I have a guaranteed spot if I can go to a better school and fight for a job. At a top-five program, there's always going to be competition for a position. You always have to be ready to play."
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