Well ladies, it’s official….today marks the 30 day countdown ’til Kick-Off! It’s time to even out that farmer tan and start planning your football season wardrobe. Fortunately for you, Nike makes that easy for Duck fans! Before we get too carried away with tailgating fashion (more on that later), it’s time to continue your pre-season football education boot camp! This week, we’ll be talking running backs….
Let me begin by saying two things. First, over the past several years the Oregon Ducks have produced some awesome running backs, largely impart (I believe) to the running back’s coach, Gary Campbell. He seems to be a father figure/best friend to these guys, and you can sense their loyalty during interviews. Whatever he’s doing, seems to be working and this year should be no different! Second of all, the first guy on the list this week has won me over as a fan! I’m really lucky to have recently met him, so I can stand by my statement, “He’s such a nice guy, on and off the field”!
Kenjon Barner, Senior, 5′ 11″, 195 lbs. Major: Pre-Journalism
Kenjon, whose nickname is “KB” was recruited out of Southern California, where he grew up with 6 older siblings! Kenjon first earned a soft spot in my heart, when he was carted off the field in 2010. For those of you that don’t remember, he was hit (helmet to helmet) by a WSU player and knocked out! He didn’t move for what seemed like an eternity and IT WAS AWFUL! Duck Nation stood still, LMJ stood sobbing on the sideline, his parents were rushed down to the field, and an ambulance carried him off the field.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHmCrmicHao) I remember my friends laughing at me as I made them all pray with me during our party, but I believe God answers prayers, and Kenjon does too 🙂 It goes without saying, Kenjon came back stronger than ever after recovering from that concussion! I figure anyone that can come back from that kind of a hit is a fighter…and awesome!
Kenjon has played a huge role in the Ducks’ recent success, but he has also been overshadowed by Lamichael James (now in the NFL). Despite his talent, he’s often had to take a back seat while LMJ took center stage. I have been impressed by his grace the past couple of years, and this was validated when he spoke at my recent football 101 event. When asked which player he thought was the best he’d played with or against, he named Lamichael James. I was impressed by his sincerity and continued support of someone who was his strongest competitor.This year, it’s Kenjon’s turn, and I’m excited to see how he handles the load of the starting running back. This basically means he will have to carry the ball A LOT more than he’s used to. If you were paying attention last year, you probably noticed that when the quarterback handed the ball off to a running back, it was usually Lamichael, while Kenjon lightened the load. This year, Kenjon will replace Lamichael, getting the majority of the hand-offs. This means more running, and more tackles. There’s no question he can run (just as well as LMJ); the only question is how he’ll handle being the main guy. Kenjon, if you’re reading this… YOU GOT THIS!
De’Anthony Thomas, Sophomore, 5’9″ 173 lbs, Major: Communication
Wow! Where to begin? Basically, this is the guy to watch this year (along with Kenjon of course)! I know I’ve talked about this kid a lot in previous posts, but to recap:
De’Anthony, aka DAT, aka Black Mamba,played a lot last year as a freshman, and won a ton of honors and awards! DAT is reportedly the God Son of Snoop Lion, formerly Snoop Dog (oh brother), and he had planned to go to USC for years as a five star recruit. At the last-minute last Spring, he decided to come to Oregon (Thanks De’Anthony)! It was a huge shock to the college football world (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xlkzEGbpdQ), but now that a year has passed, we can focus more on all the awesomeness DAT brings to Oregon. He’s basically a prodigy- He’s fast (hence the nickname, Black Mamba), and not only can he play running back, he can play receiver and return punts. I am constantly blown away by how tough he is! He’s very small, by college football standards, and looks like he’s going to break in half as lineman chase him down! Honestly, I try not to look when he returns punts; but, somehow he’s making it injury free! One of the biggest things to watch for is how Coach Kelly decides to use him this year. He is expected to take over the 2nd Running Back Spot, next to Kenjon, but he could also play at receiver, and probably will a lot of the time. Given that there are usually at least two running backs in during each offensive play, this will open up a spot for one of the other up and coming Backs…Ayele Ford or Kenny Bassett. It should be fun to see which of these guys starts to shine! My guess….Ayele Ford.
Next Stop: Receivers! I can’t wait!