Duck 2012 Preview: Running Backs

Very few coaches in the Pac-12 are feeling sorry for Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks because of the loss of LaMichael James to the San Francisco 49ers. James was the conference leading rusher for two straight years and finished career with a total of 5,082 yards in three years.

LaMichael James has moved but Kenjon Barner is still a Ducks. Barner considered moving on to the NFL as James did but decided to stay his senior year at Oregon.

Barner rushed for 939 net yards in 2011 with his biggest game against Arizona State, racking up 171 yards, and a touchdown. The following week, Barner rushed for 115 net yards and two touchdowns including an 84-yard TD run against Colorado in his second straight start in place of the injured James. Against Washington State, the game following Colorado, Barner split time with a mended James, but Barner still managed to go over the 100-yard mark for the third game in a row, finishing with 107 yards and a touchdown. Barner would again go over the 100-yard mark against USC, in a game in which he ran for 123 yards and two scores.

The Ducks also have in its backfield, De'Anthony Thomas, a player many feel is the best in college football.

Thomas was sensational during his freshman year racking up co-offensive player of the year honors by the conference. Thomas was also All-Pac-12 first team kick returner as selected by the Pac-12 coaches and shared the team's most outstanding player honor with senior tight end David Paulson. The Sporting News selected Thomas as a Freshman All-American.

As a rusher, Thomas ran for 608 yards and was the team's third leading rusher on only 55 carries, or a 10.8 yard per carry average, highest average among all Oregon rushers including James. Thomas' best rushing output undoubtedly was his record setting performance against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl where the "Black Mamba" established the longest rush from the line of scrimmage in Rose Bowl history with a 91-yard untouched romp to the endzone. Even though Thomas only had two carries in the New Year's Day spectacle, his second carry also went for a touchdown but was only for 64-yards which caused Head Coach Chip Kelly to respond with a smirk to a reporter's question during spring football by saying, "yeah, he's pretty good," in reference to Thomas being able to play in the running back position.

Incoming freshman Byron Marshall, was a 4-star back in high school and like Thomas, played in the U.S. Army All-America Game. Marshall is currently in Eugene having enrolled at the University of Oregon for summer term in June.

Walk on Ayele Forde had 176 yards last season and was the leading ball carrier in the spring game with 74 yards and a touchdown.

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