Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012
For the month of July, we have been looking back at past classes and their impact; comparing their actual impact with their rankings to see if these players were able to perform better, worse or as expected. The early part of this series brought us up-to-date on some players that have since moved on in their careers and lives. Players who many had forgotten and most whose impact had been fully developed through their careers. Today, though, we begin to look at a group of players, many of who are still on the Duck roster, that most readers here at Duck Sports Authority are well aware of and need less introduction to their career. Nonetheless, there are always players who make a bigger impact than imagined and some players who simply never make it to Oregon. We have looked at both offensive and defensive players from the classes of 2005 through 2007; today we continue the series by looking towards the signing class of 2008. Continuing our trend, we move now to the offensive side of the ball for the class of 2008. The offensive players signed in the class of 2008 have provided the Ducks with some of the best Oregon has ever seen. Players like LeGarette Blount, Darron Thomas, Kenjon Barner and, of course, the incomparable LaMichael James.
NamePositionStarsGames Started
Kenjon Barner

Impact:Kenjon Barner is one of the most productive back-ups in the history of Oregon football. Barner has over 1850 rushing yards in his first three seasons as a Duck. Proved against Arizona State that he can handle a load carrying the ball 31 times for 171 yards in LaMichael James' absence. Barner registered the top shuttle time of all running backs prior to the 2011 season. Barner flirted with early entry into the NFL draft this past off-season, but returns to Oregon as the heir apparent to James.
LeGarrette Blount

Impact:As a back-up to Jeremiah Johnson in 2008, Blount rushed for just over 1000 yards. As a junior, Blount set the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 17 scores on the ground in 2008. Heading into his senior year, the future looked bright. Blount was on many pre-season watch lists and big things were expected. The story of how his senior season was derailed have been well chronicled. Blount has gone on to a successful NFL career thus far with Tampa Bay. As a rookie, Blount rushed for 1007 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Blake Cantu

Impact:Blake Cantu arrived at Oregon from a storied Dallas area football program. With good size and soft hands, Cantu was looked at as a very good receiver by coaches and fans alike. Blake struggled, though, with injuries. After a breakout in the 2009 spring game, many were expecting big contributions from Cantu. Injuries, though, would haunt Cantu. In 2011, after struggling with recurring shoulder issues, Blake retired from football. He is still a student at Oregon looking to finish a masters degree before he leaves. His shoulder is being repaired in hopes of having a somewhat normal life.
Nick Cody

Impact:Many readers of Duck Sports Authority message boards got to know Nick a little before he arrived at Oregon. A Washington native, Nick frequented the boards a lot as a senior in high school. Appearing in 20 games over the first two seasons of his career, 2011 saw Nick blossom into a 13 game starter at right tackle. Nick will likely be the opening game starter for 2012 as well which would make him another two year starter.
Garrett Embry

Impact:Garrett had an impact for the Ducks as a true freshman in 2008. Playing a role in special teams, Embry appeared in all 13 games for the Ducks. As a sophomore, he appeared in 11 games, making his first two catches as a receiver for Oregon. The off-season, though, would see Embry involved in off the field troubles that resulted in his dismissal from the team.
Chris Harper

Impact:Originally envisioned by many as a deadly dual threat quarterback, Harper only threw nine passes during his freshman season. Shoulder problems throwing the ball created a switch to receiver midway through the season. He was the first Oregon player Since Joey Harrington to run, pass and catch a pass for a touchdown in the same season. After his freshman year, though, homesickness and a promise from Kansas State to be allowed a shot to play quarterback again led to his transfer. After accepting a role as a wide receiver at Kansas State, Harper has been successful for the Wildcats. Started 12 games last season and was their leading receiver with 40 catches for 547 yards and 5 touchdowns.
LaMichael James

Impact:Does his impact really need to be chronicled? The most accomplished running back in Duck history left after his junior season. The only Pacv10 player to ever rush for 1500 or more yards in three consecutive seasons, the former Doak Walker Award winner is considered by many to be the best player in school history. Was the schools first unanimous All-America in 2010 and the first two time consensus All America after his 2011 season. Led the nation in rushing yards per game for in 2010 and 2011 seasons. Is there anything more? LaMichael James had as much impact as any player in school history. Thrown into the limelight after Blount's suspension, James rarely slowed down on the field. After rushing for over 150 yards in the 2012 Rose Bowl, James left for early entry into the NFL Draft where he was selected in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers.
Ellis Krout

Impact:Krout came to Oregon and redshirted in 2008. Feeling as if his playing time would be limited, Krout transferred to Division III Wesley College in Delaware. He made a big name for himself there making 114 receptions for 1925 yards and an incredible 38 touchdowns in 2 seasons. An ACL injury late in his senior season may have prevented his chance to play professionally, though he is still looking to play somewhere.
Jeremiah Masoli

Impact:Masoli came to Oregon late in the process for the 2008 recruiting class. A full qualifier out of high school, the former City College of San Francisco transfer was a mystery to many. He arrived as a fifth string quarterback and emerged as a 10 game starter his sophomore season. Set the all time record for rushing yards by a Duck quarterback in 2008. Followed up that season leading the Ducks to a conference championship and first Rose Bowl berth since 1994. After off the field troubles led to his suspension and eventual dismissal, Masoli, who had graduated in three years, transferred to Mississippi where he started for the Rebels. After completing his college eligibility, Masoli was offered a chance by the 49ers but was cut. He was subsequently signed by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL and is currently on the disabled list.
Mychal Rivera

Impact:After spending his first year in Eugene redshirting, Rivera transferred to College of the Canyons. After a season there, he went on to Tennessee where he has started 25 consecutive games for the Volunteers. With one season of eligibility remaining, Rivera looks to be a solid tight end for the Tennessee football team.
Hamani Stevens

Impact:During his first season in Eugene there was talk of moving Stevens to defensive tackle. That did not happen, but following the season, Stevens went on a two year mission for the Mormon Church. Returning in time for the 2011 season, Stevens appeared as a back up in 8 games as a freshman last season. Expected to challenge for a starting position, Stevens' best years are still ahead of him as he becomes an integral part of the offensive line.
Darron Thomas

Impact:There was plenty of excitement by Oregon football fans when Thomas, a Houston native, switched his commitment from LSU to the Ducks. He would be called on earlier than most imagined in 2008 when he was summoned for a fourth quarter relief appearance against Boise State. Thomas almost led an improbably comeback that day. He would redshirt 2009. After Masoli's dismissal from the team, Thomas and Nate Costa battled for the starting nod in 2010. After winning that battle, Thomas led Oregon to a National Championship game as a redshirt sophomore. Falling just short of a national title, Thomas returned in 2011 and led the team to another conference title and a Rose Bowl win. He surprised many by declaring early for the NFL Draft. He went undrafted and is currently looking for a place to play football. Nonetheless, his place in Oregon history is very secure. He has the single season record for touchdown passes and, playing just two seasons, the career record for touchdown passes.


Games Started: 105/239 Impact: This cane rightfully and legitimately be called one of the best offensive classes in Duck history. The class produced the schools all time leading rusher and all time leading passer. The two quarterbacks singed in this class combined for 48 starts over 4 seasons and that number would have gone up had Thomas returned for a senior season. The second running back behind James has rushed for nearly 2000 yards as a back up and is the heir apparent in 2012. Even those players who never stepped on the field for the Ducks like Rivera and Krout turned out to be very productive players elsewhere which shows the incredible depth that the Ducks possess when talented players like that are stuck in a logjam on the Oregon roster. Yet a third running back in this class rushed for over 1000 yards as a junior and is a very successful running back in the NFL. Not a bad haul for a running back class! The two offensive linemen ion this class have proven to be worth their ranking as one will be a two year starter this season and the other proved that two years away from football on a mission did nothing to diminish his football skills. Hamani Stevens could very well work his way into the starting lineup this season and become a three year starter. Overall, this class just had great talent at every position. Some of it may not have been used due to depth, but that does not negate their talent and ability. Even Blake Cantu showed in his great performance with 111 receiving yards in the 2009 Spring Game that he could have been an exceptional receiver for the Ducks. Though injuries would end his career before it started, his talent was clear. With a few players from this class still to complete their Duck careers, this groups ranking will only continue to improve.


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