James, Boyett and Kelly honored by FWAA

LaMichael James and John Boyett were named to the Football Writers Association of America Aon Insurance Freshman All-American Team today. The team was chosen from both true and red-shirt freshman and included five players from both the Pac-10 and SEC conferences. Chip Kelly was also named Best First Year Coach.

The Oregon Ducks' 2009 season will be remembered first and foremost for a Pac-10 championship. What most will not soon forget is the amazing journey that brought the Ducks to Pasadena, including the suspension of their top rusher at the start of the season and injuries to two key players on defense. Not many in the media or on the message boards (with the exception of Jason Vondersmith of the Portland Tribune, who said boldly after the Boise State game "I'm sticking with my prediction that the Ducks win the Pac-10") were predicting a Rose Bowl appearance after the Ducks lost both T.J. Ward and LeGarrette Blount to suspension and injury respectively, before only the second game of the season. Some even questioned whether Oregon's head coach was up to the task.

However, thanks to the leadership of Chip Kelly and the stellar play of LaMichael James and John Boyett, Oregon didn't seem to miss a beat. Against Purdue, Boyett was second on the defense with nine tackles. A week later, James rushed for 152 yards and a TD against Utah. The rest of the season saw significant contributions from both red-shirt freshmen and today they were recognized by the Football Writers Association of America for their efforts, as they were placed on the FWAA Ion Insurance Freshman All-America Team. For leading the Ducks to a Pac-10 championship and the Rose Bowl, Coach Chip Kelly was named First Year Coach of the Year.

Boyett's season was marked by jarring and sometimes spectacular hits. Perhaps the most impressive was his upending of an Ohio State receiver in the Rose Bowl. But likely the most meaningful was the stop of an almost certain UCLA touchdown, with a huge hit at the one yard line, that led to a goal line stand by Oregon. He also made a touchdown saving tackle against Washington in Seattle that ultimately led to a Husky turnover. Boyett finished the year as Oregon's leading tackler, with 90 tackles, and was second on the team with three interceptions.

James' season was equally impressive. Just after Boyett and the defense stopped UCLA at the goal line down in LA, James spun out of a tackle in the endzone and was gone on a long run that got the Ducks out of trouble. His teammates said it looked like a move out of a video game, and his stats at times looked the same. All season long he made it clear he was one of the best running backs in the Pac-10. Against California, he out-rushed initial Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best by 63 yards, ending up with 118 and a touchdown. Against Oregon State, he out-rushed Jaquiz Rodgers by more than 100 yards, finishing the game with 166 yards and three touchdowns. He led Oregon with an average of 118.9 yards per game, was second on the team in scoring, and set the Oregon freshman rushing record with 1546 yards, averaging an amazing 6.7 yards per carry.

Kelly was put in the middle of a media firestorm that carried almost through the entire season following his suspension of LeGarrette Blount after the Boise State loss. With many wondering whether the Ducks let Mike Bellotti walk away too soon, Kelly quickly proved that Oregon made the right choice. Calling the eventual reinstatement of Blount a "human-being decision," Kelly turned a controversy into the redemption story of the season, as Blount returned to the line-up and scored a crucial touchdown against Oregon State in the season's final game.

James and Boyett were two of the five Pac-10 players placed on the team, joining offensive lineman David DeCastro from Stanford, defensive end Nick Perry from USC, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict at Arizona State.

The team and coach were selected by a 11-person panel of nationally-prominent writers led by Mike Griffith of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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