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Pac-10 Position Breakdown Running Back: Oregon Ducks

AllPac10.comContributor IJuly 21, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 08:  Andre Crenshaw #22 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball against the Michigan Wolverines during their game on September 8, 2007 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Ducks defeated the Wolverines 39-7. (Photo By Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Oregon Ducks know how to run the football.

Only the triple-option offense of Navy kept Oregon from having America’s best rushing attack in 2008. With over 280 yards per game on the ground, Oregon devastated it’s opponents with a potent combination of speed and power.

Chip Kelly’s spread-offense produced two 1,000-yard rushers last season, only the second time in school history that it has happened.

Throw in QB Jeremiah Masoli’s 718 yards on the ground, and it isn’t hard to see why the Ducks scored over 40 points a game in 2008.

But one of those 1,000-yard rushers is gone. RB Jeremiah Johnson graduated last season, finishing his fine career at Oregon with 2,336 yards and 30 TD’s.

Can we really expect the Ducks to match last year’s productivity with the loss of their leading rusher? It won’t be easy, but a 240-pound bulldozer could pave the way for Oregon in 2009.

Ask Pac-10 defenses about senior RB LeGarrette Blount and you might see a few cringing faces.

Better yet, ask Oklahoma State, who wanted no part of the 6'2", 240 pound bruiser in last year’s Holiday Bowl; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRd3jboBC68

He only carried the ball 137 times last season in an offense designed to spread the wealth, but he still made a huge impact.

Blount rushed for 1,002 yards and a single-season school record 17 touchdowns. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry last year, obliterating the school record for 1,000-yard runners.

The craziest part of all—2008 was his first year at Oregon. The Junior College transfer only had two years of eligibility remaining when he left East Mississippi Community College in 2007.

Blount was suspended earlier this year for missing multiple team meetings, but it appears to be a thing of the past. He was also hampered by a minor foot injury during the spring, but it looks to be nothing that will keep him out of fall practice.

Blount possesses a devastating blend of size and speed.

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He burst onto the national scene in a non-conference game against Purdue. His 131 yards and 2 TD’s helped Oregon survive the upset-minded Boilermakers. In the game, Blount averaged a ridiculous 11.9 yards per carry and scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Despite his fullback physique and pounding running style, Blount proved he could be a home run threat too.

In 2008, he had runs of 72, 69, 46, and 40 yards. The former Rivals.com 4-star standout is primed for a big 2009. If Chip Kelly gives Blount 200 or more carries next season, look out.

We know who the Ducks feature back will be this fall, but Blount is by no means their only rushing threat.

Senior Andre Crenshaw has been in Chip Kelly’s system for a while now. The reliable Crenshaw has accumulated 551 yards and five TD’s in his career. At 5'11" 196, Crenshaw is a nice compliment to Blount and a good return man as well.

In 2007, Crenshaw ran for 415 yards and four TD’s. He was the team’s third leading rusher in addition to returning kicks and playing some on special teams. He was used sparingly in 2008 because of the depth in front of him, but still averaged over five yards a carry with 121 yards and one TD on the year.

Junior Remene Alston Jr. will also see action in 2009. The 5'8" 200 pound back from Greensboro, NC ran for 161 yards and one TD last year, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. He had a 43-yard scamper against Washington State that gave the Oregon coaching staff a chance to see his speed.

Alston Jr.’s season was cut short on Oct. 20th because of a broken foot suffered during practice. Chip Kelly’s system allows for multiple backs to get carries, and a healthy Alston Jr. will look to capitalize on his chances in 2009.

The most exciting back on the roster besides Blount is redshirt freshman LaMichael James.

The 5'9" 180 pound speedster has a perfect skill set to offset the loss of Jeremiah Johnson. He is supremely skilled in the open field and possesses excellent quickness. 

He could also develop into a great receiver out of the backfield, something missing from this group of backs. James spent last year on the scout team and will need experience, but his upside is undeniable.

The Texas native was rated as a 4-star athlete by most recruiting services, running for over 2,000 yards and 26 TD’s in his senior year of high school. The former track star has been clocked at 10.51 in the 100 meters.


My Take

Having both LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Masoli in the shotgun at once is scary.

Kelly’s offense is designed to spread the field and create one-on-one matchups. I can’t imagine any defense stopping either Masoli or Blount with just one man.

If Oregon can stabilize the offensive line, this rushing attack could be just as good as last year’s.

I am very high on LaMichael James.

Crenshaw and Alston Jr. may get the carries at the start of the year, but James is too good to hold back for long.

Overall, expect more rushing fireworks in Eugene this fall.

- Sam Saig

www.allpac10.com

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