Monday, August 9, 2010
LaMichael James resets expectations
EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon running back LaMichael James said he has learned the responsibility that comes with playing football.
James spoke Monday as the Ducks opened fall camp with high expectations tempered by offseason trouble. The rusher who set a Pac-10 freshman record last season pleaded guilty in February to misdemeanor harassment stemming from an altercation with a former girlfriend.
James, who admits his mistake, said he cannot measure the lessons he took from the experience.
"You have to fly straight and narrow -- that's just what you have to do," he said.
Oregon went 10-3 last season, knocking Southern California from its seven-year-perch as Pac-10 champions and advancing to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995.
But the Ducks' offseason was marred with misdeeds by several players. Most notable among them were James and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was dismissed from the team and is now a walk-on at Ole Miss.
James was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 24 months of probation. His ex-girlfriend claims he grabbed her neck and pushed her to the ground during an argument.
James apologized to the woman in writing and accepted responsibility for his actions. Coach Chip Kelly suspended him for the season opener against New Mexico on Sept. 4
James rushed for 1,546 yards last season, the ninth-highest total in the nation. He had seven consecutive 100-yard games before Ohio State limited him to 70 in Oregon's 26-17 loss in the Rose Bowl.
James excelled in the absence of running back LeGarrette Blount, who was suspended for much of last season after punching a Boise State player in the aftermath of the season opener.
James said that ultimately he didn't fully understand the responsibility of his position.
"You're in a fishbowl. Either you're at the top and everybody's waiting for you to fall, or you're at the bottom and everybody's waiting for you to screw up," he said.
Masoli, who was expected to be a possible Heisman Trophy candidate this season for the Ducks, pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary in the theft of a pair of laptops and a guitar from a campus fraternity in late January.
Kelly suspended him from the team for the season, then kicked him off when Masoli was stopped for a traffic violation with marijuana in his car.
Place-kicker Rob Beard was also suspended for the opener after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge for his role in a Jan. 24 street fight that left him seriously injured.
Kelly dismissed defensive end Matt Simms for his alleged involvement in an assault and receiver Jamere Holland for posting vulgar comments on the Facebook social networking site.
Yet the Ducks remain the team to beat in the Pac-10. Oregon was picked by the media to finish atop the league, and was ranked No. 11 in the USA Today preseason coaches poll.
The Associated Press preseason Top 25 will be released on Aug. 21.