LaMichael James Injury: How Long Until DeAnthony Thomas Starts at RB?

Randy ChambersAnalyst IOctober 7, 2011

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 10:  De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks cruns for a touchdown against  the Nevada Wolf Pack on September 10, 2011 at the Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

I'm sure you have all heard the news by now that one of the country's top running backs, LaMichael James, went down last night with a nasty elbow injury. The Ducks were in the fourth quarter and in the middle of a beatdown over the California Golden Bears.

James put his arm down to try to break his fall and his elbow popped out of place. It was pretty gross stuff, and you can see the video here.

Even though James says it is not a season-ending injury and he expects a speedy recovery, you have to believe he'll miss at least one game. Maybe more, so we have to look ahead to the backup running backs.

Junior running back Kenjon Barner is probably moving into the starter roll and he's not a bad replacement. He's done well in a limited roll the last three seasons, averaging at least six yards a carry every season, and has 15 total touchdowns in limited action.

Barner could very well be the No. 1 back in this offense, and he is a little bit better of a receiver than James is. Like every running back on this roster, he also possess that breakaway speed.

But then there's freshman De'Athony Thomas, and he has the skill set to be the starter right now. The kid is one of the most gifted football players many have ever seen. He could play safety, cornerback, wide receiver and running back at an extremely high level.

He has speed like all of the running backs, can change direction on a dime and has great football instincts.

With just 25 carries this season he has 191 yards, which is an average of 7.6 yards per carry. What's most impressive about Thomas is the wide receiver type numbers he puts up out of the backfield. Thomas has great hands and his 17 receptions for 286 yards and four touchdowns prove that.

Thomas overall is the better running back and it's only a matter of time before he becomes the starter.

It's going to be extremely hard to fill in the shoes of LaMichael James if he misses significant time but Thomas should be the choice if he does.

De'Anthony Thomas is the future of this Ducks program and it looks like the future may happen a lot sooner than expected.