“We want to score and don’t care [about] the method,” said new Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich, who in true Chip Kelly fashion, never tipped much of his hand in terms of managing his roster during his 2013 Pac-12 Media Day presser.
Helfrich not only inherited a team fresh off of a string of BCS bowl appearances and three Pac-12 titles in four years, he’s got the dubious task of stepping into the footsteps of Kelly, while filling the void left by running back Kenjon Barner.
Barner had a big year as a senior last year for the Ducks, rushing for 1,767 yards and totaling 21 touchdowns. Both marks put Barner into the top handful of backs in the nation, but where does Oregon go from here?
The natural assumption has been that uber-playmaker De’Anthony Thomas would inherit the bulk of the carries in the Oregon backfield, but on Friday morning in Los Angeles, Helfrich was hesitant to resonate that notion.
“It’s to be determined”, said Helfrich when asked about Thomas being the No. 1 running back. The first-year head coach then lauded Thomas for his versatility, mentioning that it’s what the Crenshaw High product revels in.
Last year, Thomas ran for 701 yards on 91 carries, though he specialized in the return game and at receiver, where he led the Ducks in receptions. Thomas was third in the nation in all-purpose yards, behind USC’s Marqise Lee and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.
Despite being arguably the most electric player in football, the knock on Thomas is his very slender frame, which Oregon lists at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds. Ironically, questions of durability never stopped a similar-sized LaMichael James, the Ducks all-time leading rusher.
Oregon brings in the homegrown five-star running back Thomas Tyner, who at 6-foot, 200 pounds, is more inline with the size and strength of Barner.
The Ducks kick off their season on August 31st at Autzen Stadium against Nicholls State.