Hey, Don’t You Forget About Him
With Matt Barkley losing his fourth consecutive game to the Stanford Cardinal over the weekend, Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas is shooting up Heisman boards faster than he can take a screen pass 40 yards to the end zone—and it’s not only Thomas. Dynamic freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota is already being hailed by many as the best quarterback in the Chip Kelly era.
My Heisman top five this week: 1, Geno Smith; 2, De'Anthony Thomas; 3, Aaron Murray; 4, Stepfan Taylor; 5, Johnathan Franklin.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) September 17, 2012
So where does that leave senior playmaker Kenjon Barner? For now it seems he is being left off the national radar, but Ducks fans, heck even Pac-12 fans, know better than to sleep on number 24.
The flashiness and big play ability of youngsters Thomas and Mariota can make Barner’s consistency look a tad vanilla in comparison, but let’s not take consistency for granted here. With Barner, Ducks fans know what they have. You’re getting a guy who will consistently rack up six yards a carry, which he has done every full season in his career—though he does sit at 5.8 YPC this year.
What’s more? Barner’s six rushing touchdowns are tied for most nationally with three other players, and from the looks of it, Barner will continue to get stronger throughout the year, especially numbers-wise.
As I’ve mentioned before, Barner’s career numbers compare very favorably to LaMichael James’ numbers at Oregon. In James’ Doak Walker Award winning 2010 season he rushed the ball 294 times for 1,731 yards. In Barner’s career as a back up, he rushed the ball 304 times for 1,856 yards. That’s 10 more rushes and 125 more yards, and so far this year as the starter, he looks to be able to handle a full workload.
Speaking of that workload, Oregon’s massive first-half leads have limited Barner’s snaps. Kelly leaned on Barner in Oregon’s sole competitive game against an underrated Fresno State squad, and Barner responded in a big way. He finished with 34 carries for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Look for Chip to go to Barner over and over again when the Ducks have more reachable second-half leads.
He was limited to just 22 combined carries in the two games against Tennessee Tech and Arkansas State. In those two games against mediocre opponents, Barner looked to be reserved in his running style. I saw multiple opportunities for him to gain more yards and cut back upfield with him instead taking his first downs and getting out of bounds, and I can’t blame him for saving his body for the long haul.
Kelly, and the Oregon offense, will go through Barner as the games start to hold more weight, starting this Saturday when Arizona and its high-flying offense come to town. If he can string together some big games—with the Ducks continuing to be front-runners in the national title hunt—Ducks fans will see Barner shoot back into the national conversation for some post-season accolades.
Barner should see at minimum 20 carries per game as the schedule strengthens up, and as long as he remains healthy, he should be close to the national leaders in rushing yards per game and touchdowns.
And, by no means is this the start of a KB for Heisman proclamation, rather a reminder. Don’t sleep on Kenjon Barner.
So, in the midst of this DAT for NYC campaign, let’s not forget who’s the old bull in this race. Barner, the bell cow of Chip Kelly’s run-heavy offensive scheme, will remind the nation why he was featured on so many preseason All-American lists in the coming weeks.