Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Pac-12 got backfield
By Ted Miller
Who's got the nation's best backfield? Oregon, according to ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman. Who's got the second best backfield? Stanford, says Feldman. He ranks USC 10th, which means the Pac-12 has three of the top-10.
Here's what he says about Oregon: The Ducks have a very, very good quarterback in Darron Thomas and a great running back in LaMichael James, a pair of standout Texans who are thriving in the Pac-12. James, who is a legit Heisman contender, ran for 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2010. The Ducks also have a dangerous backup to James, Kenjon Barner, who gained 551 yards and averaged more than 6 yards per carry last season. Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound junior, may get overlooked because of James' presence and because he plays in the same conference as Andrew Luck, but the Ducks' passer is a lethal triggerman in Chip Kelly's scheme. He ran for almost 500 yards last season while averaging more than 5 yards per rush in addition to posting a stellar 30-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio.
And Stanford: Luck's presence alone would almost merit the Cardinal a spot on this list. He is that special. The quarterback is the best player in college football and has some pretty good talent around him. Stepfan Taylor, a junior, rushed for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. The Cardinal, however, did lose versatile RB Owen Marecic, the tough, two-way player who was Jim Harbaugh's favorite.
And the Trojans: Matt Barkley returns for his third season as starting quarterback of the Trojans. He's been very impressive at times but will need to take his game (26 TDs, 12 INTs) to another level if this team is going to get close to being back where it was just three years ago. Barkley does have some spectacular young receivers to throw to, led by budding star sophomore Robert Woods. The Trojans have more young talent in the backfield starting with speedy redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan, who appears to be the home run threat this team has lacked the past few years. Senior Marc Tyler, the team's leading rusher last season with 913 yards, is a bigger back to provide another option. Shifty Dillon Baxter and little Curtis McNeal also have flashed some potential, but they still have to prove they can do it in games and not just on the practice field.