Darrian Felix is still here.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound redshirt sophomore says he’s healthy and happy to be one of the faces in a crowded running back competition during Oregon’s fall camp.

During the Ducks’ final nonconference game last season, Felix suffered an excruciating season-ending ankle injury.

“It was crazy. Third game of the season versus San Jose (State), I get the ball and I guess I planted wrong,” Felix recalled. “The guy behind me had tackled me, and I guess my foot balled up and ripped the ligament off my bone. I was done for the season.”

Felix said the injury was as painful as it sounds. Amazingly, he continued to play and didn’t learn of the diagnosis until a postgame X-ray was taken.

While rehabbing behind the scenes during the remainder of coach Mario Cristobal’s first season as coach, Felix saw freshmen CJ Verdell and Travis Dye establish themselves atop the depth chart.

Verdell led the team with 202 carries for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dye added 140 carries for 739 yards and four touchdowns. Another freshman, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, scored seven touchdowns as the goal-line back.

“It wasn’t hard to watch at all,” Felix said. “These are my teammates, my brothers, so to see them shine, that makes me happy, too.”

 

With the ankle fully healed, Felix is able to show off his lateral quickness again as he tries to get back in the rotation.

Oregon’s third-leading rusher in 2018, the speedy Tony Brooks-James, has graduated and is currently in the Atlanta Falcons training camp.

“He has some really special traits,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said during the spring when Felix was cleared to practice again. “The ability to kind of be low to the ground. He’s explosive, has good vision, catches the ball well, top-end speed is good, can make you miss, he’s got a little wiggle.

“To have him healthy, it’s been really nice to see him progressing.”

Catching Verdell and Dye isn’t the only challenge for Felix during fall camp. A couple of touted true freshmen in the rear-view mirror, Sean Dollars and Jayvaun Wilson, may be closer than they appear.

“I’m just very confident with my style,” Felix said of the competition. “I’m not that big, but I’m very strong, lower body is very strong. I’m fast, elusive, explosive. …

“All of us combined together is a stable, a lot of horses back there.”

The returning experience and improved depth for second-year running backs coach Jim Mastro is another reason expectations are so high for the offense.

The entire starting offensive line, senior quarterback Justin Herbert and tight ends Jacob Breeland, Cam McCormick and Ryan Bay are all back. Dillon Mitchell is the only starter from the Redbox Bowl who left, but at least 10 talented wide receivers are battling for playing time.

“The competition is good for everybody,” Felix said. “That’s what coach Cristobal asks of us, to push each other and be competitive and be relentless. All that just helps us be the best person we can be.”

Felix was highly recruited during his high school career in Fort Myers, Fla., with more than 20 FBS offers, including one from Auburn. He committed to then-Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and longtime Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell after an official visit in October 2016.

Willie Taggart, who had recruited Felix at South Florida, signed him as part of the Ducks’ 2017 class.

As a true freshman playing behind Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit and Brooks-James, Felix had 30 carries for 182 yards (6.1 yards per attempt) and a touchdown.

When Florida State called Taggart back home, Felix says he never considered transferring.

“Not at all,” Felix said. “Coach Taggart being from Florida and coming to Oregon, it just made it that more perfect. I didn’t really have a feeling when coach Taggart left that I would leave or anything. I wasn’t worried about that.”

Despite not getting any carries during Cristobal’s debut as Oregon’s coach at the Las Vegas Bowl, and getting only 14 carries before the injury last September, Felix remains excited about the possibilities for his career with the Ducks.

“I feel like the third year is the charm, most definitely,” Felix said. “Because my freshman year the experience I had, and last year redshirting, it just made me more mature and gave me the opportunity to work on the things I need to work on.”