Kenjon Barner has big shoes to fill as he replaces LaMichael James and the running back will be the Oregon Ducks' key to success in 2012.
Barner is a talented back who can fix many problems for the Ducks. Oregon needs Barner to carry the load on offense in order to be as successful as possible.
James was known for his blazing speed and dazzling moves that had fans erupting in Autzen Stadium. However, James' ability to carry the load on offense was highly underrated.
In 2011, James carried the ball 247 times in 12 games played. That's over 20 carries a game for an undersized back that had to share the load with two other talented backs. 2011 wasn't even his highest totals for attempts as he carried the ball 294 times the year before.
Now it's Barner's turn to carry the load.
While being James' backup in 2011, Barner carried the ball 152 times for 939 yards, a 6.2 yards per game average and 11 rushing touchdowns in 12 games. Not bad stats at all for a backup, but Barner must be able to step up as a work horse in 2012.
If Barner can carry the load, fellow running back De'Anthony Thomas will have a much better chance of shinning and winning a Heisman. One may think that losing carries to Barner will hurt Thomas, but that is far from true.
Thomas will certainly get his fair share of carries, but the Ducks need Thomas to be a do-it-all back once again in 2012. As a true freshman in 2011, Thomas was just five yards shy of 600 rushing yards, and he was five yards over 600 receiving yards.
If Thomas has to carry the load as a running back, he has a greater risk of injury, will get less touches in the open field and may not be able to do as much on special teams. Barner's ability to carry the load will completely open up Thomas' repertoire of skills.
Then, there's the quarterback controversy.
There is no telling who will be the Ducks' starting quarterback and if the eventual starter is here to stay. Both Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota will be faced with a ton of pressure for the 2012 season.
Barner is who can ease the pressure by being a workhorse and taking easy hand-offs from either quarterback. First the Ducks must find their starting quarterback, but then they must have Barner ease the starter into a smoother season.
Barner's biggest total in carries and yards in a single game in 2011 came against the Arizona State Sun Devils. Barner carried the ball 31 times for 171 yards to go along with one touchdown. He has shown that he carry a team to victory with this huge game.
The Ducks' biggest game in 2012 is clearly against USC and Barner stepped up big against the Trojans last season. Not only did Barner outplay James, but he also racked up 123 yards on just 15 carries and found the end zone twice. If the Ducks want to beat the Trojans this season, Barner must come up big once again.
The Ducks are loaded with talent once again in 2012. Barner will be the key to the Ducks' success as he must be able to carry the load to open up the explosive offense.