On Tuesday, Feb., 10, it was announced that senior Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended indefinitely. With the first game of the season still so far away, it is hard to speculate what this suspension may mean for the season.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome this is a situation for other Oregon running backs to step up and shine.
Outside of LeGarrette Blount, Oregon returns three running backs. Senior Andre Crenshaw, redshirt junior Remene Alston Jr. and redshirt freshman LaMichael James. These three combined have little experience at the college level, but may all be called upon at some point this season to make plays.
He is the most experienced back of the three. Andre was forced to step in and back up Jonathan Stewart during the 2007 season when Jeremiah Johnson went down with a torn ACL. Andre proved to be a very capable back.
He has good speed, decent power with his 5'11” 196lbs. frame and can make his man miss the tackle. Andre may not be the one making the highlight real each game, but he can help keep the chains moving.
What makes Andre most valuable is his ability to catch the ball coming out of the back field. He has good hands and a great burst after catching the ball, to turn and get up-field.
Despite Crenshaw’s strengths, there come some weaknesses. The first, as with the other two backs is experience. There is a learning curve to play running back at the collegiate level that only comes from being on the field.
Crenshaw also hasn’t been in a situation where he is an every down back. He hasn’t taken 20 touches a game week-in and week-out. His durability hasn’t been tested, which may not prove to be a weakness, but something to keep in mind.
Lastly, Crenshaw is the not home-run hitter or big play-maker that Jeremiah or LeGarrette are or have been. When he lines up, he doesn’t scare the defense the way the other two do.
Crenshaw will be a very serviceable back for Oregon. Will he pick-up where Jeremiah left off? Hopefully, but those are big shoes to fill.
Remene Alston Jr.
He is a hard one to peg. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but has also been limited on the field. And just as things started to click for Alston in 2008, he broke his foot. Alston is a fireplug at 5’8” and 200 lbs.
He is a shifty runner and hits the hole hard. He has the ability to break the big play, because once he gets into the open field he can be tough to bring down. Alston is again a serviceable back, but he won’t be your every down back for an entire season.
The biggest knock on Alston is experience. He was buried in a talented backfield his first two years and broke his foot the following year. Alston has been recognized as a key contributor on the scout team during his time at Oregon, but practice is a different atmosphere than game day.
Alston will find areas where he can contribute, but he may not be the every down back Oregon needs.
He is the sleeper of the three. He has yet to play a down of college football. If you haven’t seen his high school highlights, I suggest you do so.
LaMichael is a game-breaker with track speed. (He will be running track at Oregon.) LaMichael is a very shifty runner who won’t be taken down easily in the open field and won’t get caught from behind.
When a player with his speed and his ability to break the big play steps on the field, everybody’s eyes on defense start looking into the backfield. He is small at 5'9” and 180lbs, but this can work to his advantage at times. He can hide behind his linemen and sneak under those arm tackles.
LaMachael has already started receiving the hype, since the week before the Civil War, players and reporters were raving about this kid’s ability as he helped the Ducks prepare as a member of the scout team.
There are two major concerns with LaMichael. First, is a lack of experience. Not to sound like a broken record, but experience can’t be taught. Second, is size. I know I commented about how this could be an advantage, but there are times when it is a disadvantage.
At 180lbs, James will have a difficult time pushing the pile forward or falling forward against the defense.
Also a player of LaMichael’s size, his body will get beat up more so than Blount 230 lbs frame. This may limit him how many touches he can take. But with multiple backs around him, the carries will be split, decreasing the pounding any one of them will take.
The issue with LeGarrette Blount has every Oregon fan concerned. The running game has been key to Oregon’s success in the past few seasons and Blount was going to keep this trend going. It is too early to rule Blount out for the season or even for the Spring game. (I have my own theory what is going on, but that’s for a different article.)
But if Blount is on the field or not, there will be a need to have the other players step in and get some touches. Of the three backs discussed, I think LaMichael has the most potential to be a game-breaker and become a key player at Oregon. Crenshaw is the most experienced and polished back of the three.
He can be used in more situations than the others. But Alston started to show his abilities, so don’t sleep on him. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months. Is it Sept. 5 yet?