Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Does De'Anthony Thomas' Injury Make ORegon a Better Team?

Today for our expanded coverage of the Oregon game week, we looked at the key story line for both teams headed into the match-up with Colorado; injuries.

Colorado saw the return of Paul Richardson from injury this season and he has excelled for the Buffaloes early.

For the Ducks, it is a different story; that of an injury that will hurt the Ducks against Colorado creating the absence of perhaps the most dynamic player in all of college football.

Certainly the injury will have the impact of reducing the depth at running back against the Buffaloes. No one, though, expects the loss of Thomas to create an emerging potential loss in Boulder.

But that takes us to the title question, does this make the Ducks better?

Two years ago, the last time Oregon went into Boulder, they did so without their starting quarterback and without their All-American running back. Darron Thomas had gone down against Arizona State the week before Colorado and LaMichael James had dislocated his elbow a week earlier against, you guessed it, California.

That game featured Bryan Bennett starting at quarterback and leading the Ducks to a 45-2 victory with Barner carrying the ball 10 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. The game allowed the Ducks to become a deeper team. Imagine what the competition for the starting quarterback spot might have looked like in 2012 had Bennett not gained some fire from his start. Would Mariota have been the same QB he is today? That is a bit rhetorical as I doubt his brilliance would have been lessened by a less sharp or focused Bennett.

Beyond that, by having Barner become the main man running the ball, the Oregon team not only became a better group in 2011, but positioned themselves better for their 2012 run.

Saturday, Byron Marshall will get what is technically his second start... but it will be the first time he has prepared as the starter. That is a different feeling and one that he will have been able to say he has had. When the time comes later in the season, he will be that much more ready to be an impact player.

Thomas Tyner also goes into the week knowing that he will probably be seeing time while the game is still in doubt. With the expansion of his role this week, Tyner will also begin to grow as a player. If injuries strike later, Tyner's experience will make him a better player as well.

In the short run, Thomas' injury could have been disastrous, but Oregon has talent behind their starters and the talent level is incredible. Talent needs one thing to become results; experience. This weekend, the Ducks backup running backs will get the last piece of a puzzle.

To answer the question, does Thomas' injury make Oregon a better team?

In a word: yes.

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