The Case for Kenjon (Barner)

Ed’s Note: Written by Jeff Spiegel

Immediately following the devastating Rose Bowl loss last January, the only positive Oregon headline in circulation read: “Kenjon Barner is the Lone Bright Spot for Oregon” (Los Angeles Times). For anyone who has forgotten the details of that game, that wasn’t a typo. It wasn’t Jeremiah Masoli or LaMichael James who carried the Ducks in the biggest game of the season; it was that other running back that kept it close. Said Chip Kelly after the game, “I know there’s a lot of negatives about tonight…but I get to spend three more years with Kenjon.”

You see, while everyone has spent the off-season touting LaMichael James, the breakout freshman from last season, it appears many people are passing over the explosive Barner. While many would claim they aren’t underestimating Barner, I’m asking you to consider the following: could Kenjon Barner actually be better than James?

On the face of it, the competition doesn’t seem that close. James was given four times the carries Barner was, and carried the ball for an astounding 6.7 yards per carry compared to Barner’s 6.0 YPC. Consider, however, that over the final eight games of the season, Barner’s averaged jumped to 7.2 YPC against defenses such as UCLA, ASU, USC, and Ohio State compared to James’ 7.0 against the same opponents. The reason to look at just these final eight games has nothing to do with the added importance of these games, but just the added grasp Barner had of the offense.

While James had the luxury of learning the system for an entire season during his redshirt year, Barner spent that time playing defensive back for the scout team. Last season, Barner was essentially a true freshman learning the offense on the fly after taking an entire season off. In addition to all this, Barner starred during his time on special teams last season, setting a single-season Duck record for kickoff return yardage, and figures to do more of the same this season. What I am trying to say is not that Kenjon Barner is definitively the best Duck running back on the roster, but that Barner hasn’t done anything to lead us to believe he can’t be.

To clarify further, none of this has anything to do with James. LaMichael is a freak, and figures to be one of the nation’s top running backs this season; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if Barner joined him in that group this season. During James’ Week One suspension, Barner will have the opportunity to make a statement regarding his place on the Oregon depth chart, and given the porous defense he’ll be facing, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes that statement at the top of his lungs.

With as much talent as the Ducks have rotating around the running back position with both of these elite backs — and the addition of two of the most highly recruited backs in Lache Seastrunk and Dontae Williams — Chip Kelly’s task of spreading the ball around will most certainly be difficult. All this being said, that remains a problem most coaches wished they had.

Expect a lot more of this, this year:

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Correction: New UO Student Season Ticket Option is a Huge Win for Students

Last night I got all worked up about the horror that would be UO students paying for football tickets.

It turns out I was so blinded by the dollar signs that I didn’t completely understand the initial report and more importantly, didn’t include one crucial bit of information that, in fact, makes this deal a huge victory for students.

Instead of taking away 1,000 of the tickets the ASUO already allocates to students via that still bat shit crazy online distribution system, the athletic department is now offering 1,000 extra tickets to students — taking them from the general ticket marketplace. In essence, the AD just increased the amount of tickets available to students by 20%.

Now the only problem is the ethical dilemma it creates for students.

Should you pay the $200 — fair market value at $33 per ticket — and guarantee yourself a coronary-free Sunday, or save the beer money and add a little excitement — and possible heartbreak — to the end of your week?

Personally, I’ll pay the $200. I will be in Eugene for all six games, I’m lucky enough to afford it, and no matter how much of a rush it was to make it to that still ever-glorious checkout page, I’d rather avoid the stress and battle scars that come with it.

And if you think about it, there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying $200 for just two games if you happen to miss out on them through the online process. Sure, you can buy standing room only tickets to out of conference games, games against weak opponents (cough WSU cough) and games before the school year starts for $30 and then sneak into the student section, but for premium games like USC, UW or the Civil War (although we play none of those teams this year), even a standing room only ticket could set you back $100.

Of course, if you’re not going to be in Eugene for September, being in Autzen on Saturday isn’t a life or death proposition, or you already work two jobs paying your own tuition, then you can carry on as if nothing has changed.

By all means, this has not fixed the student football system but it does help those who are willing to shell out the extra $200.

Plus, this offers the added bonus of beefing up one of the already rowdiest student sections in the country with 1,000 new “O”-yelling crazies.

If anyone should be upset, it should be the alumni, faculty and the general Autzen Stadium-going populace.

I apologize to the AD and the ASUO for my disparaging post yesterday, and on behalf of all students, I’d like to thank you for finding a way to let 1,000 more students enjoy the privilege that is Oregon Ducks football at Autzen Stadium.

Here are the reports from the Daily Emerald and the release from GoDucks.com itself.

The only question is if the ASUO will continue to purchase as many tickets for students with student fee money as before, as the Emerald’s report says the ASUO will save $160,000 from this deal, which I’m not sure where that comes from.

Rivals Has the Oregon Ducks No. 4 to Start the Season

Of course, it’s all about the quarterback. But apparently, Rivals is buying either one or both of the Nate Costa and Darron Thomas duo.

Here’s my favorite line:

The Ducks are loaded, or at least solid, everywhere else [aside QB]. They have a strong line, an explosive running back, a productive receiver and a good defense.

Oregon appears to have the components to post a double-digit victory total for the third consecutive season and for the fourth time in six seasons. If everything works out right, the Ducks could challenge for the national title.

Don’t go booking flights to Glendale for January just yet, but there’s a good chance you might need to.

A couple interesting notes:

  • Prize DT recruit Ricky Heimuli has been tearing it up in camp and could see serious playing time right away, which would add much needed depth (behind Brandon Bair) to the defense’s weakest position. Aside from Bair, no other returning DT made more than 18 tackles last season. Yea, Heimuli will be important.
  • No kicker on the current roster has converted a college field goal. Seriously, check the stats (I know, it shocked me too). But that’s why true freshman Alejandro Maldonado is Olin Buchanan’s impact newcomer on offense. However, no matter how good he might be, a true freshman kicker is always a scary proposition.

Posts like this make me salivate for September 4th — which is good because I just booked my flight up to Eugene.

Go Ducks!

Attention UO Students: Get Ready to Shell Out $200 for Football Tickets

Ed’s Note: Read the updated/correct story here.

Any current (or former) U of O student knows how awesome football games at Autzen Stadium are. Not so awesome, however, is the process of how said students go about obtaining their virtual golden tickets.

Every Sunday evening before the next home game, thousands of students nervously log-on to GoDucks.com, holding their collective breath and hoping the server doesn’t overload while the seconds seemingly tick by at lightning speed. If you don’t get to the ever glorious checkout page by three minutes past your designated distribution time, you know there’s a good chance you’ll be scalping tickets come Saturday.

Well now there’s an answer.

From GoDucks.com:

For the 2010 Football Season, UO students will be able to purchase a Student Season Ticket. This season ticket will cost $200, and all 6 home games will be embedded into your UO Student ID card. Students with a Student Season Ticket will not need to claim a ticket through the lottery process on a game-by-game basis, though you will still get your UO ID scanned at the student entrance at Autzen before each game.

UO Student Season Tickets will go onsale on Sunday, August 22nd at 6:00pm. There is a limit of 1,000 season tickets and they will be sold to currently enrolled UO Students on a first-come first-serve basis.

Hold on a second here. Doesn’t every student already pay for football tickets as part of their student fees? Why should I have to shell out $200 more — on top of $35,000 for tuition — to ensure that I can yell “O!” on six Saturdays?

Of course, I’m going to do it — and I expect the other 999 tickets to sell out in mere minutes — because whether it’s right or not, being able to attend (and write about from the first person) Oregon football games is one of the top reasons why I chose the U of O.

Students get the short end of the stick already. Sure, you can cut back hours to the library, EMU and the Rec, close “The Break” pool hall, and eliminate needed bus routes without much complaint, but don’t mess with our football tickets.

The UO Athletic Department has put itself in a win-win position while putting the ASUO in a lose-lose. The old system was bad, blaming the ASUO for not having enough money to buy up the whole student section on gamedays. Now, students will blame the ASUO for agreeing to let the AD make $200,000 in pure profit off 1,000 so-called lucky, worry-free students.

Sure, it might be worth $200 to me to avoid the heart-stopping panic each Sunday night. * **

(*Note: Last year, I only managed to get a ticket to the epic USC game because a “friend” on facebook who I didn’t actually know, had made it into the system and decided to do a good deed, entering my username and password into his open ticket-gulping channel.)

(**Extra note: While thousands of students are turned away from even attempting to “purchase” student tickets online, certain lucky students have the opportunity to logout and back in nearly limitlessly to hook up all of their friends. Yea, the system is broken.)

But it’s $200 more than students should have to pay to attend football games. I may seem to be emitting a generous aura of entitlement, but I think my (well, my dad’s) $35k+ a year is enough to include a guarantee for six measly football tickets.

Yea, I’ll pay the $200, and it’ll be a relief for my blood pressure not to go through the roof on a weekly basis, but I think there’s a better way to let students attend football games — without gouging their pockets and offering its student body a collective weekly coronary.

Rivals.com Loves the Ducks; Petros Papadakis is Still Douchey

The other day Olin Buchanan over at Rivals.com picked the Ducks to finish atop the Pac-10 conference. Today, Rivals.com released their No. 6 team — the Florida Gators — on the their preseason top 120 countdown.

But that’s not the good news. Unless I’m missing something, Rivals has’t yet listed Oregon in their bottom 115 — which means they think the Ducks are a top five preseason team (Umm, they know we don’t still have Jeremiah Masoli, right?)

Whether they’re big believers in Nate Costa (they are on the record saying he’ll be the starter), or just love our uniforms, Rivals thinks the Ducks are in for big things this year — and I won’t disagree.

All reports say the offensive line looks deep, the running game looks as good as ever and the tight ends, well, look really good with their shirts off.

The Ducks have looked so good, in fact, that Fox Sports Radio mega-douche Petros Papadakis was in Eugene to take in practice from the sidelines. Has he found a new bandwagon to jump on now that USC will be done playing in early December?

P.S. — Here’s an awesome photo slideshow of fall camp so far by the Register Guard.

Go Ducks!!

Does Jacquizz Rodgers Deserve the Heisman Hype? Definitely

Lately, Oregon State has been on a mad — well, relatively mad — “Jacquizz Rodgers for Heisman” push. Putting my Beaver hate on the side for a minute, I can’t blame them. Quizz is really, really (really!!) good. Heisman good even? Probably.

And unlike our other rivals further north, Quizz has actually done everything in his power (on the field) to have his name put in the Heisman discussion.

But because Oregon State is Lunch Pail U and doesn’t receive the glam and glitz of other programs (cough *U of O* cough) — and probably doesn’t want it — there’s an unfortunately high chance that Quizz won’t even make it to New York come December.

Well that, plus they’re breaking in a true freshman quarterback.

Still, the Oregon State AD’s new video of the talented junior running back is pretty cool — but come on, they could have at least shelled out a few extra bucks for HD.

Life As a Scholarship Athlete

Ed’s Note: Written by Joe Schiller

The life of a college athlete is surreal.

Lekendric Longmire knows the ups and downs as well as any student-athlete.

Walk around with any star athlete on campus and you might feel like you’re in the presence of a celebrity. Ask any athlete to define the word humble and they may have trouble doing so. This isn’t surprising and who can blame them?

Aside from the glitz and glamour, college athletes on scholarship deal with more pressure than doctors performing surgery. OK … maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.

Aren’t athletics supposed to be fun? Sure, when you’re scoring touchdowns and throwing alley ops you bet your ass it’s fun. Win and life is good, but lose and life is hell.

Life as a college athlete isn’t as easy as one might think. If you want to see the soft side of any athlete just listen to them answer questions from a college recruiter. While young athletes may appear to be over confident, the recruiting process can be a cruel and relentless experience. Prospects labeled with “five star talent” will have a recruiter guarantee them anything from a jersey number to a starting role as long as they provide their signature.

Trust me I would know.

Out of high school I signed a letter of intent to attend a division II school in Idaho. Before signing it seemed my phone would never stop ringing with calls from the coaching staff. They assured me I was their main priority and offered me a generous scholarship. After committing they were nowhere to be found. Promises that were made ended up being nothing but lies.

Looking back I wish I would have asked more questions and taken more time to consider my options. Playing college baseball had always been my dream and being offered a scholarship was impossible to turn down.

To an athlete, earning a scholarship means everything. All the hard work; the sweat, the blood and the tears, finally seem worth it. But it only gets harder.

Pressure didn’t exist in high school.

Lets be honest; how many times have you found yourself screaming at the television because someone on your team made a crucial mistake? Guilty? We all are. Last year’s disaster at Boise State even had an elderly woman dropping F bombs. As a fan it’s easy to get frustrated, but try and name one athlete who wants to fail. Jamarcus Russell doesn’t count.

Most college athletes will confirm that playing a college sport is more like a job. Senior Lekendric Longmire, a guard for Oregon’s basketball team agrees. “If you’re not winning then your coach’s job is on the line and so they take their frustration out on the players.”

Lekendric also explained some of the expectations as an athlete on scholarship: “There is a lot of pressure to perform and stay out of trouble off the court. It really goes back to winning; if your winning they will honor what they promised, if not they won’t.”

Picture this analogy. A waitress is responsible for taking orders and tending to their customers to ensure they have a pleasant dining experience. To expect a waitress to cook while also serving customers would be illogical. Is the idea of a student athlete much different? I think not. The idea of a student-athlete is not realistic. In order for a college athlete to maintain their ability and be ready for the competition, they MUST devote a majority of their time to practice.

Practice??? We’re talking bout practice?? Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice builds confidence. Confidence to overcome the pressure athletes feel in more ways than one. I’m still trying to figure out where academics fit in.

College athletes deal with pressure in all forms: Pressure to perform, pressure to get good grades, and pressure to represent their school. Scream as you wish, but remember what goes into being a college athlete. These are young adults, not professionals.

Yahoo! Pegs Ducks Top in Pac-10, Oregon Unis Make Headlines (Again), and Jake Locker is Ronnie From Jersey Shore?

Yahoo Sports!/Rivals.com writer Olin Buchanan just came out with his super ridiculously in depth, more comprehensive that probably necessary but still entirely worth reading Pac-10 conference preview.

The theme: It’s wide open. (Sad note: It wouldn’t be if Jeremiah Masoli didn’t decide to well, you know…)

There are lots of interesting nuggets in here. Namely, Olin has already gazed into the crystal balls and declared Nate Costa the Ducks’ starting quarterback. He must not be a fan of eggs over-easy.

Here’s what else Olin thinks about the Ducks this season:

  • Oregon is picked to finish first, with USC, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington rounding out the top five.
  • Olin dubs Oregon-USC as the conference’s game of the year. “If Oregon gets by USC, the Ducks could enter the last month of the season as national championship contenders.” I can dig it. The Civil War also ranks among the 10 best games.
  • Four Ducks are selected to finish on the the all-conference first team: LaMichael James, Bo Thran, Kenny Rowe and Casey Matthews. Nothing too surprising there.
  • And four more Ducks were selected to represent the second team: Jeff Maehl, Carson York, Brandon Bair and Kenjon Barner, as a return specialist. I’m disappointed that Jordan Holmes, Eddie Pleasant and especially John Boyett didn’t get love from Buchanan.
  • In the “team unit” offensive rankings, Oregon is ranked as having the fifth best backfield (despite being loaded at running back), seventh best receiving corps (not much proven production beyond Maehl), and the number one offensive line (as they should be).
  • On the defensive side, the Ducks look to be in much better shape, coming in third on the line (Rowe is in for a big year), second best at linebacker (Ducks go a strong eight deep), and second again in the defensive backfield (Olin says no team is deeper at safety).
  • Despite the explosive return threats Oregon has, Olin doesn’t have much confidence in the Ducks’ special teams unit, noting the inconsistency from Rob Beard and Jackson Rice.
  • “Big Balls” Chip and Co. come in just behind Mike Riley’s staff for the top spot on the sidelines. For the Beavers to do anything this year, Riley better do a helluva job breaking in new quarterback Ryan Katz.

Some other interesting tidbits:

  • Despite plenty of love for Jake Locker, Olin thinks Washington will disappoint this year because of their inexperienced defense. Why can’t they just Locker play both ways? Then UW would be unstoppable.
  • Washington State comes in dead last in every unit ranking except for one, where they’re slotted ninth. Yea, the Cougs still have a long way to go.
  • Buchanan expects Quizz to be offensive player of the year. Let’s see what LMJ thinks about that.

Lastly, some other bits of Quack from earlier today:

  • In a poll of 125 NCAA football players by ESPN, 53.7% picked Oregon’s uniforms as their favorite in the country. This survey means you can’t bitch about Oregon’s unis anymore. They’re doing exactly what they were designed to do. One unnamed Big Ten star was particularly blown away. “I don’t even have to think about that one,” he says. “I almost wanted to transfer there just for those uniforms.” Yup, they’re working.
  • Phil Knight is profiled in the magazine Fast Company, with the apt headline: How Nike’s CEO shook up the shoe industry.
  • My San Francisco 49ers just announced they’ve signed former beloved Duck Will Tukuafu to a two-year contract.
  • Jason McIntyre over at The Big Lead compares college football players (and coaches) to Jersey Shore characters. Jake Locker is compared to Ronnie for his “beastlyness” but I think it has more to do with their shared love for grenades. And Lane Kiffin is the equivalent of Angelina because, well, nobody likes either of them. That one was easy.

A Gambling Column, Why Not? Up First: Heisman Trophy Futures

Ed’s Note: Written by Chase Kepler, practice reporter and Chad Millman wannabe.

College football is less than a month away and that can only mean one thing: Gambling is BACK.

Las Vegas expects Ingram to repeat -- or at least wants us to believe that.

Sure baseball is OK and you could bet on the occasional MMA fight, but nothing compares to the excitement of taking the 38 points and betting on Florida Southern Coast Tech State when they play Alabama.

I don’t know what it is, but putting $20 on a game makes it great. Let’s be honest, how many of you would actually sit down and watch that game? Don’t get me wrong, when my Ducks are playing no money is necessary to have me glued to the TV. But when the late night game is an epic matchup of SWAC powerhouses, some action is needed to keep me from falling asleep.

This will be a weekly column to let you, the reader, have the inside edge and keep your wallets fat. Because, well, what makes more sense that having a blog run by college students (half of which are under 21) have a column on something that’s completely illegal outside of Nevada, Oregon, Montana and that shit hole we call Delaware. It makes perfect sense.

With the games still a few weeks away I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at some future bets, specifically the odds for the Heisman and the BCS.

Lets start out by looking at the odds for the Heisman Trophy.

  • Mark Ingram + 350
  • Terrelle Pryor+ 500
  • Ryan Mallett+ 1000
  • Casey Keenum + 1200
  • Jake Locker (Jesus, best prospect ever, best athlete alive, 9-27 as a starter) + 1200
  • John Clay+ 1200
  • Noel Divine + 1200
  • Dion Lewis+ 1200
  • Evan Royster + 1200
  • Jacory Harris + 1200
  • Andrew Luck+ 1500
  • DeMarco Murray+ 1500
  • Christian Ponder + 1500
  • Kellen Moore+ 1500
  • Matt Barkley+ 1800
  • Quizz Rodgers +2000
  • Landry Jones + 2000
  • Garrett Gilbert +2500
  • LaMichael James + 3000
  • Tate Forcier + 3000

Now that the odds are laid out it’s time to eliminate the sucker bets.

If overhyped was in the dictionary, there’d be a picture of Jake Locker sitting right next to it. My personal bias aside, he will not win the Heisman. Lets face it, even if Locker was the best player in college football (he’s not), it wouldn’t matter because that isn’t what the award is anymore. It’s now the “best player on a top-5 team” award. Although improved, Locker and Washington might not win five games, let alone finish near the top of the polls. Stay away.

Other players that fall into the “Great player, not good enough team to win the award”:

  • Dion Lewis
  • John Clay
  • Quizz Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Casey Keenum
  • Ryan Mallet
  • Evan Royster
  • Matt Barkley (good enough team, but the sanctions hurt)

Now onto the next level of people who won’t win. I like to call it the “Is this a joke? I have a better chance than they do” section.

Tate Forcier is one of the players we're sure won't win the Heisman.

First off, Tate Forcier. I know three things about Forcier: One, he’s on Michigan. Two, Michigan sucks. And three, he probably won’t even be the starter. Stay away, far away.

Andrew Luck at + 1500. He’s a great player but I can’t see him putting himnup Heisman-type numbers — or winning the Pac-10 — without Toby Gerhart. Think he throws for 250 yards and two scores against Oregon without having the threat of seven yards a carry in the backfield each play? I don’t.

Other people that wont win but I don’t have a category to put them in.

  • Jacory Harris
  • Mark Ingram ( Too hard to win it back-to-back)
  • DeMarco Murray

Finally, onto the players that will put money in your wallet.

As much as I hate to say it, the smartest bet this year is Terrelle Pryor at + 500. With their easy schedule, Ohio State has a great chance of going undefeated and heading to the BCS. Combine that with Pryor’s supposed newfound maturity, momentum coming off a Rose Bowl victory (tear), and the fact that he still has that “once in a lifetime recruit” hype, there’s a great chance he’ll be in New York at the least.

I hate everything about Boise State, but Kellen Moore is an outstanding QB. His Heisman chances come down to one game against V-Tech. They win and Boise most likely goes undefeated. Moore also had the second highest number of Heisman votes last year of all players returning this year. His stats alone might just be enough to blow away voters — his 39 TDs and 3 INTs last year is pretty amazing. He’s a great value at +1500

My biggest shocker is Garrett Gilbert. I know he’s a true sophomore who’s never even started a game. I know only one true sophomore has won the award and he had Jesus on his side. But Garrett Gilbert is immensely talented (many considered him the best QB of the 2009 class) and surrounded by enough talent that Texas should win the Big 12 (don’t buy the Nebraska hype, their offense is anemic). That alone will get him attention and votes. Get in early when he is still in the +2500 range

Saved the best for last: Our boy LaMichael James. It would take the Ducks at least a Rose Bowl berth for him to get a chance but that’s well within the realm of possibility. Last year he set the freshman rushing record despite a measly 11 carries in the first two games. I expect even bigger things from him this year with all five starters and top reserves returning on the offensive line, and most likely a bigger emphasis on the running game without Jeremiah Masoli.

At + 3000 James is a great bet for the savvy gambler and hey, he’s a Duck so show him some love and get on the Wagon now.

Coming soon: A look at the BCS odds