Why Oregon Ducks Will Be Just Fine Without LaMichael James in 2012
The Oregon Ducks and all their wild fans will certainly miss watching LaMichael James dip, duck and dodge opponents, but the Ducks will be just fine in 2012 without James.
Eugene's slogan may as well be, "In Chip we trust." The town, fans and all the students are in love with head football coach, Chip Kelly. The Ducks may have the most innovative coach in all of college football, and you never know what Kelly will do next.
What Kelly certainly will do is win. In three seasons as Oregon's head coach, Kelly is 34-6 with three conference titles. Ducks fans had a big scare when Kelly almost left Oregon to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Kelly came back to Oregon for "unfinished business to complete" with the Ducks.
Kelly and his creative offensive mind, will have a lot of fun with his offense in 2012. Yes, the Ducks are losing the school's greatest running back in school history perhaps, but don't think their running game is ruined.
The Ducks may have the fastest combination of running backs in all of college football in 2012.
Kenjon Barner, the bigger back at 5'11" and 195 pounds, will be carrying more of the bulk of the carries. In 2011, as James' backup, Barner still managed to gain 939 yards on 152 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. Those are solid numbers for a backup and will just continue to climb with more carries in 2012.
The real star of the team, will be De'Anthony Thomas. This do-it-all running back can be a serious Heisman candidate in 2012, and he's the perfect player in Kelly's spread offense.
As a true freshman, the speedster did it all. Standing at only 5'9" and 173 pounds, Thomas blazed by defenders with ease in 2011.
For the limited amount of touches he had, his numbers were out of this world. With just 55 carries, Thomas gained 595 yards and scored seven touchdowns while averaging 10.8 yards per carry. When he was on the receiving end, Thomas caught 46 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns.
To top it all off, Thomas even racked-up 983 kickoff return yards and two more touchdowns.
The big question is who will be quarterback for the Ducks in 2012. The two options are sophomore Bryan Bennett and freshman Marcus Mariota.
In Oregon's spring game, both quarterbacks did a solid job. Mariota was 18-of-26 passing with one interception and one touchdown. He also rushed five times for 99 yards including an incredible 82-yard touchdown. Bennett was 19-of-32 passing with two interceptions.
After the scrimmage, Mariota may be the starter, but don't be surprised if Kelly uses both quarterbacks during the 2012 season.
Having two quarterbacks can mostly be a problem, but Kelly is creative enough to use both to his advantage. They have the weapons to hand the ball off to and solid throwing options on the outside with Josh Huff and Rahsaan Vaughn. Look for sophomore tight end, Colt Lyerla, to also factor in nicely.
Clearly the offense is the high point of the Ducks, but the team also has some solid returners of their defense. If safety John Boyett, linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso, and defensive end Dion Jordan can keep teams out of the the end zone, the Ducks will be just fine. The defense will need to be good, but not great thanks to their dynamic offense.
LaMichael James will certainly be missed, but Chip Kelly has a lot to look forward to. Kelly has a lot of options to go to on offense, and if the Ducks can beat USC, they will have another chance of playing for a championship.
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