Oregon’s depth allows LaMichael James and Darron Thomas chance to recover
For the second time in two weeks, the Oregon Ducks football team have been struck by injury to one of its starting players. Darron Thomas went down early in the third quarter against Arizona State — a preview of what could end up being the Pac-12 Championship game.
Although the injury has not been disclosed, as part of Coach Chip Kelly’s policy, the injury was to Thomas’ leg. Questions still remain about Thomas’ and running back, LaMichael James’ return tomorrow against Colorado. Thomas has said he expects to play, but it’d be in the best interest to the Ducks to allow Thomas and James one more week of recovery time.
Colorado is 1-6 coming into the game against Oregon, and they haven’t won a game at home yet this season. They currently sit last in the Pac-12 South standings. Oregon is ranked No. 10, with rankings in the top 10 for rushing yards and points for. The great thing that the stats don’t show you, is that Oregon has depth. LaMichael James sat out of the ASU game, the biggest game that the Ducks have played so far, excluding LSU. Running back Kenjon Barner stepped in for the injured James and had 171 yards on 31 carries with one touchdown. Freshmen De’Anthony Thomas had another solid game with 73 yards on 7 carries.
Perhaps the most outstanding performance came from freshmen backup quarterback, Bryan Bennett, who stepped in for Thomas after his injury. He completed two for five passing for 22 yards, and rushed for 65 yards on five carries. He led the Ducks with two quick scores in the third quarter to give the Ducks a 35-24 lead. Bennett was smart and kept the ball out of the air and on the ground. The Ducks finished the game with 327 yards rushing and 209 yards passing.
Based on the performance against No. 18 Arizona State, a team that poses a bigger threat than Colorado, it’s safe to say that the Ducks would be OK without Thomas or James tomorrow. Bennett has certainly proved he can step up, especially in a pressured situation and perform well. Giving him the opportunity to start in Colorado will give Bennett more experience as he will be the likely candidate to start for Oregon once Thomas graduates. As far as the running back position goes, Coach Kelly is always comfortable to start Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas, two of the best backup running backs in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, the country.
The Ducks have two huge games and two rivalry games in the coming weeks: Nov. 5 at Washington; Nov. 12 at Stanford; Nov. 19 against USC; and Nov. 26 against OSU. If the Ducks want to be at the top of their game, Coach Kelly will rest Thomas and James another week to ensure that they are 100 percent healthy and ready to play.