When your position consists of eight-men, you have to distinguish yourself to earn a spot on the fall depth chart.
Sophomore running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who is amongst those eight-men, was known as the running back strictly used in goal-line situations last season. Habibi-Likio, who led all rushers during Oregon’s spring game, in which Mighty Oregon defeated the Fighting Ducks 20-13. He showed why he wants to be more than just a goal-line back, but an all-purpose back.
“The guy can flat out play football,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “He is relentless in terms of the effort he gives.”
Habibi-Likio, who had the second most rushing touchdowns last season only behind starting running back CJ Verdell, eclipsed his 2018 season total in one game as he led all running backs with 47 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
“I definitely felt like I showed some versatility out there,” Habibi-Likio said. “That was my goal for spring ball.”
Habibi-Likio, who played for the Fighting Ducks, got his chance to show off his versatility with the second team offense.
After a three-and-out by Mighty Oregon, the Fighting Ducks made it clear that Habibi-Likio was going to get carries early and often. He received a fourth of his carries on the first possession as the Fighting Ducks tried to finds its rhythm on offense.
The Fighting Ducks drove down the field on the first team defense to put Habibi-Likio in familiar territory.
Quarterback Tyler Shough, on first and goal, turned to Habibi-Likio with ball in hand and let the sophomore do what he does best. He muscled through a bevy of Ducks to score his lone touchdown of the day and put his squad up.
Habibi-Likio, who has never caught a pass in his Oregon career, had a chance to show off his receiving skills as well. He flared out to the left side of the field, but quickly came back to find a screen pass waiting for him from Shough. He was able to put his foot in the ground and burst up field for a 16-yard gain. He finished with three receptions for 24 yards.
“Whether he is protecting and doesn't have the ball in his hands or whether he’s catching the screen pass,” Cristobal said, “he’s making something happen.”
Despite the career-highs on offense, he also proved that he could protect the quarterback. He and the offense line only gave up one sack on the day despite facing a relentless pass rush throughout the entire game.
Habibi-Likio showed that he’s more than just a guy you need for a 1-yard touchdown, but a back that is reliable and can be used for all situations. His head coach would agree.
“He has certainly earned a the right to increase his role on this football team,” Cristobal said.
Habibi-Likio and the Ducks have a long road ahead of them until their first game on August 31, against Auburn. Habibi-Likio will utilize his offense to prove that he’s a starter and not just a one-down back.
“Just want to take this offseason to keep working at it and prove that I can be an every-down back,” Habibi-Likio said.