The Oregon Ducks boast one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the nation, averaging 329 yards per game on the ground. The player getting all the headlines, DeAnthony Thomas, is not even the best running back on the team.
That distinction belongs to Kenjon Barner, who has been the playing in the shadows for his entire career in Eugene having served as the understudy to LaMichael James for the past three seasons before he declared for the draft and now Thomas.
Despite playing behind James and not getting many opportunities to showcase his talent, Barner made the most of the limited opportunities he received. Most notably when he started for a suspended James in the 2010 opener vs. New Mexico, when he had 147 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Barner went back to a reserve role when James returned from his suspension and did not receive many carries for the duration of his sophomore season.
As a junior Barner was still the top reserve to James, but saw a considerable boost in playing time as a result of his success on the field and an injury to James. Barner would eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground four times, including a career-high 171 yards vs. Arizona State.
The junior season was full of personal bests for Barner, who also had to compete with the freshman Thomas, who ate into his carries and looks out of the backfield. Barner finished with 939 yards on 152 carries for a 6.2 average and scored 11 rushing touchdowns.
Each was a career-high for Barner as he was a key contributor in the Ducks’ Rose Bowl victory.
Barner entered his senior season in 2012 and yet Thomas was stealing all the headlines, and it is not without merit as the electrifying playmaker is averaging more than 17 yards per carry and leads the team in receiving.
Barner leads the team in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns for the #3 ranked Ducks and it is Thomas who finds his name in the Heisman conversation, not the senior running back averaging 108 yards and two touchdowns per game this season.
That is why Barner is the most valuable player for the Oregon football program this season.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.