When Kenjon Barner arrived at Oregon, he was promptly moved to defensive back. Despite a stellar career and exceptional senior season at Notre Dame High School, the Riverside, CA, native was willing to do what ever it took to see the field as an Oregon Duck.
Barner rushed for 3,124 yards and scored 46 touchdowns as a senior in high school. His ability as a running back was always there, but coaches felt that the depth and talent Oregon had at running back combined with Barners ball-hawking skills on defense (he also had 6 interceptions as a senior) made Barner a better fit on defense.
Barner told Duck Sports Authority after his November 2007 commitment, "If at corner is where I will get the chance to play then that's where I want to play. Of course I want to have the ball in my hands."
And when he arrived at Oregon, defense was the plan. In Spring 2009, however, due to limitations on LeGarette Blount and fellow freshman LaMichael James, Barner was moved back to offense where he began to show flashes of what Duck fans would see on display this past Saturday against Fresno State. "I don't think anybody on our coaching staff knew how dynamic he was going to be with a football in his hands," said coach Chip Kelly as fall camp opened in 2009.
A fact lost on many Duck fans over the past two seasons, thanks to the electrifying play of De'Anthony Thomas, is that Barner was the original "tazer" back in Chip Kelly's offense. Though he was not the instant sensation as his best friend LaMichael James, Barner was crucial and important to Oregon; and not just on offense. The primary kick off returner and punt returner as a freshman, Barner set the Oregon single season record for kickoff return yards in 2009. Included among his many exceptional returns was a 100 yard return for a touchdown on the road against UCLA to open the second half. That return propelled a strong second half that helped Oregon return to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 15 seasons.
Barner was a quiet player on the field, though, preferring to let others lead vocally. Barner just kept working hard and improving. After his solid freshman season which included a breakout performance in the Rose Bowl, Barner saw an increased importance in his role in 2010. Barner had added weight and looked as fast as ever. After returning a punt 80 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee, he appeared to be a true all-purpose threat.
Four weeks later, though, Barners life on the field would change. Against Washington State in October, Barner took a clean but gruesome looking hit to the head while returning a kickoff with four minutes left in the first half.
Immediately his father and ...
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