NOTE: These are Oregon notes from Gary Horowitz of the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal, one of our Gannett partners. Here is a link for more coverage of the Ducks from the newspaper.
EUGENE — Oregon has a full complement of speed running backs with LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas.
Tra Carson is the Ducks’ emerging power back.
“I’m more of a banger, I guess you could say,” said Carson, a 6-foot, 227-pounder, who broke James’ single-season school rushing records as a senior at Liberty-Eylau High School in Texarkana, Texas.
Carson, who ran for 82 yards on nine carries in last week’s 56-7 rout of Missouri State, is the Ducks’ third-leading rusher this season with 116 yards (6.4 yards per carry).
No. 10 Oregon doesn’t alter its spread-option offense when Carson enters the game, but his running style is different than James, Barner and Thomas, who weigh less than 200 pounds. Think LeGarrette Blount.
“I think Tra kind of runs the way our O-linemen would run if we got the ball,” left guard Carson York said. “He puts his head down and he wants to deliver a punch.”
When Barner returns from an ankle injury, likely Saturday at Arizona, Carson’s role might be limited. But he could be part of a dynamic running back tandem down the road with fellow true freshman Thomas.
“We only look at it day to day,” Carson said. “All I can do is come out here and work hard and hopefully one day…”
Thomas, who is 5-9, 173 pounds, already has a marketing strategy in mind.
“It’s like Shaq and Kobe right now,” Thomas said.
More playing time for Harris? Cornerback Cliff Harris has seen limited playing time since returning from a one-game suspension. He has one solo tackle in two games.
Last season Harris led the nation with 23 passes defended and paced the Pac-10 with six interceptions. He also set a single-season school record and tied the career mark with four punt returns for touchdowns.
“From day one I’ve wanted to see him get in there and play, but it’s not my decision,” rover Eddie Pleasant said.
Terrance Mitchell has stepped into the starting lineup in place of Harris at left corner opposite Anthony Gildon.
Harris might come in handy against an Arizona team that features quarterback Nick Foles, who threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns in last season’s 48-29 loss at Oregon. The Wildcats rank fifth in the nation in passing offense (364 yards per game).
Big plays: The big play is back in Oregon’s offense. After not recording one play from scrimmage of more than 25 yards in the season opener against LSU, the Ducks have 15 in the past two games.
Defense update: Oregon ranks 51st among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in scoring defense (22.3 points per game), 62nd in total defense (359.3 yards per game), 10th in pass defense (145 ypg) and 107th in rush defense (214.3 ypg).
Arizona is tied for 83rd in scoring defense (28 ppg), 111th in total defense (473.3 ypg), 111th in pass defense (300.3 ypg) and 84th in rushing defense (173 ypg).