LaMichael James likely out against ASU, but Ducks will still fly high

Oregon Ducks’ star running back LaMichael James suffered a dislocated elbow after recovering a fumble against the California Golden Bears on Thursday evening. James reportedly popped his own arm back into place before receiving attention from the trainers. No one on the Oregon coaching staff has let slip yet the status of James for next week’s game, but let’s face it, he probably won’t play Saturday against the No. 18 Arizona State Wildcats; not with the Stanford game looming.

Duck fans shouldn’t sweat losing LaMichael for one game, even though the Arizona Wildcats have been in and out of the college rankings since the season started. Chip Kelly has two standout back-ups in junior Kenjon Barner and freshmen all-star high-school recruit, De’Anthony Thomas. Barner and Thomas are averaging 6.2 and 7.6 yards per carry, respectively. Thomas, once he gets into the open field, is lightening fast. He can dodge tackles and break away in the blink of an eye. Barner has seasoned experience, is smart on the field and has strength to push for extra yardage. Both have the ability to be on the receiving end of a pass, and both have long carries with the ball. In an offense that features two running backs to be on the field, Barner and Thomas will play more than usual. Tra Carson, the freshmen running back from James’ hometown of Texarcana, Texas, will be looked to fill in when Barner and Thomas get tired. Carson, who is known for having broken records that James set in high-school, is averaging 5.6 yards a carry this season.

James, who was No. 1 in punt returns as of last week, will be missed on special teams. Barner and Thomas have the ability to step in on special teams, but most Duck fans will hope that Cliff Harris will be looked at to fill the role. Last year, Harris lead the nation in punt returns for touchdowns with four. This year, after a suspension and injury, Oregon placed James in the role of punt returner and have kept him there because of his success. Harris has the ability to really make his mark this game, and return to the Harris-of-old, if Coach Kelly gives him that opportunity.

There is one more factor in my approval of leaving James out this weekend. The Ducks will be playing at home. Autzen Stadium has the ability to tear opponents apart. Voted a few times as one of the loudest and most intimidating stadium, can terrify and break any opponent down.

To quote J. Brady McCullough, the coach at Michigan:

“Sitting in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Oregon’s Autzen Stadium is one of college football’s hidden jewels. Before kickoff, Autzen is as peaceful as the Willamette River, which runs through Eugene just a few minutes from the stadium. After kickoff, the fans – even the alumni – forget who they are, where they come from and what their degree is in. The audience adopts a new collective identity for the next three-and-a-half hours: the 12th, 13th and 14th man. Autzen’s 59,000 strong make the Big House collectively sound like a pathetic whimper. It’s louder than any place I’ve ever been, and that includes “The Swamp” at Florida, “The Shoe” in Columbus and “Death Valley” at Louisiana State. Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die.”
– J. Brady McCullough, The Michigan Daily.

Autzen plays a huge factor in the outcomes of games, and it will definitely benefit the Ducks with James out this weekend.

Leaving James out of the line-up certainly will hurt, but Oregon has the depth to recover from the loss. Aided by dedicated fans, a louder than loud stadium and great back-up running back, I think Oregon will take it this weekend against ASU.


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