Oregon-Tennessee Preview

BY foxsports • September 9, 2010

Kenjon Barner quickly led Oregon to an easy victory with one of the most prolific performances in school history that also helped the team move past a troublesome offseason.

With the seventh-ranked Ducks facing a more difficult task this week, Barner is probably more than happy to have some help.

LaMichael James will return from suspension for Oregon's trip to Tennessee's always raucous Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

Mainly a return specialist last season, Barner was given his first start at running back after James pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in February after an altercation with his girlfriend. Ducks coach Chip Kelly suspended James for last week's opener.

Barner made sure James wasn't missed in that game, a 72-0 blowout of New Mexico. He rushed for 147 yards and matched the school's modern-day record with five touchdowns - one on a 60-yard reception - while playing only the first half.

"I didn't ever imagine that'd happen," he said. "They were all fun. I had five touchdowns in high school, but I never expected five in college, unbelievable."

His substitute at returner, Cliff Harris, became the first player to bring back two punts for touchdowns. The Ducks also got 220 yards and two touchdowns from new quarterback Darron Thomas while racking up a school-record 720 yards.

Thomas replaced Jeremiah Masoli, who was kicked off the team and transferred to Mississippi.

Thomas will have company in the backfield this week with the return of James, who rushed for a team-best 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman for the Ducks' Pac-10 championship squad.

James and Masoli helped Oregon finish sixth in the FBS with 231.7 rushing yards per game last season and averaged 36.1 points, good for eighth.

"We're ready to have LaMichael back," Barner said. "He makes special plays, going to be special when we can run side by side again."

Kelly insists there will be room for James and Barner in Oregon's offensive plans as it travels to Tennessee's renovated 102,459-seat home.

"We've always felt that we've had 1A and 1B,'' Kelly said. "We run the ball 40 times a game. One guy is not going to get all the carries. Hopefully that's a good question to ask and we'll split it up."

Kelly's team will face a Volunteers squad that's coming off its first shutout in seven years, 50-0 over Tennessee-Martin in Derek Dooley's coaching debut.

Tauren Poole rushed for 110 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. The Vols (1-0) also got Prentiss Wagner's 54-yard interception return and Austin Johnson's safety from a defense replacing NFL first-round draft picks Eric Berry and Dan Williams.

"They played the way I expected them to play because we had been practicing that way," Dooley said. "We start big boy ball next week, as good as that win was."

While his defense will try to continue its growth, Dooley's offense will likely need to overcome the absence of top receiver Gerald Jones. The senior led the team with six catches for 86 yards last week but left after making a 37-yard reception midway through the third quarter.

Dooley announced Sunday that Jones, the Vols' leader in catches and receiving yards in 2009, broke a bone in his left hand and is expected to miss at least two games. Fellow receiver Denarius Moore, who ran 58 yards for a touchdown and caught a 42-yard scoring pass in last week's win, and guard Jerrod Shaw are questionable with ankle injuries.

Freshman Zach Rogers is expected to start in place of Jones.

"The freshman, yeah, we're going to have to bring them along a little quicker than we probably anticipated. But that's why we signed them, because we don't have a lot of depth," Dooley said. "That's kind of where we are at that position. It's really sort of a microcosm of a lot of other positions. We have some seniors, and we have some freshmen. That's where we are."

This is the first meeting between Oregon and Tennessee.

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