News broke yesterday that Oregon running back LaMichael James had decided to enter the 2012 NFL draft. Soon after, James released a statement that said he had not yet fully decided one way or another.
However, no one could blame James if he does decide to enter April's draft, which he likely will.
James' departure will not slow down the Oregon Ducks, but college football fans will lose one of the most exciting players of the last decade.
Since I cover SEC sports, I watch every single football game played by SEC teams. However, I am also a college football fan and enjoy watching as many games as possible during the season.
While the teams I watch vary, there is one team I always watch and that is the Oregon Ducks.
I am neither a Ducks fan nor a Ducks hater, but I love to watch LaMichael James play football.
Over the past three seasons, I have been able to watch most of his games and he has been a treat on almost every occasion.
At 5'9" and 185 pounds, James defies all the stereotypes about smaller running backs. They are not supposed to be able to run between the tackles, but James can run both between and outside the tackles.
They are not supposed to be every down backs, but James already has 746 career carries and it is this stat that will likely lead to his departure for the NFL. The reality is that running backs only have so many career carries and we should not expect them to lose too many at the collegiate level where they are not paid.
With that said, the selfish part of me hopes he comes back. It would be so exciting to watch him hunt down and subsequently pass the all-time college football rushing record. There is no reason to believe that if he stayed healthy he could not put together a single season second only to Barry Sanders' junior season at Oklahoma State.
James only needs 1474 yards to surpass current NCAA all-time leading rusher Ron Dayne, who has 6,397 yards.
James is not only the biggest home-run threat at running back in college football, he might be the toughest as well. He can’t bench press as much as Trent Richardson or abuse linebackers like Marcus Lattimore, but he is not afraid of any man and plays through injures that lesser running backs would throw in the towel with.
This season, after dislocating his elbow in one of the most horrific injuries to watch in recent memory, he begged coaches and doctors to let him play through it. His kind of resolve is going to be missed in an era of watered down toughness.
His stats are amazing. James currently has 4923 career rushing yards and 52 touchdowns, but Kenjon Barner will be able to fill in and put up huge numbers, too.
There might come a time in the near future that I turn on a Ducks game just to see Barner play. However, for me, it will not be the same as watching the “little running back who could.”