Mailbag: On Bucky compared to LaMichael, Noah Sewell's production and a lost chance at reality show fame
You had questions. These are answers.
Happy Thursday. Let’s jump right into this week’s mailbag.
Is it sacrilegious to see LaMichael James when Bucky Irving runs the ball? Joe
It’s not. Irving (5-10, 194) and James (5-9, 195) offer similar body types and both found success with their ability to quickly change direction and accelerate. And in a small sample, the numbers aren’t that far off. James averaged 6.6 yards per carry throughout his three-year Oregon career, including a monstrous 2011 where he rushed for a school-record 1,805 yards (7.3 Y/C) and 18 touchdowns.
At Oregon, Irving is averaging 6.78 yards per carry and is doing so with the type of runs that lead to this type of mailbag question.
But there’s one big caveat: The insane thing about James and his three-year run at Oregon was his ability to be a workhorse. James missed one game due to injury in three years while averaging more than 20 rushes per game.
That’s 230 rushes as a freshman, a program-record 294 as a sophomore and 247 as a junior.
With James, it was his stunning combination of production and durability under a heavy workload. And while Irving’s done nothing but produce since his arrival in Eugene, the sophomore’s 19 carries in Saturday’s win over UCLA tied a career high. He’s still got a long way to go to prove he can handle the same type of load. Plus, it would also be a drastic change for the Ducks, who have favored a running back by committee model since Royce Freeman left.
Here are the single-season carry leaders since James left:
2012: Kenjon Barner, 278
2013: Byron Marshall, 168
2014: Royce Freeman, 252
2015: Royce Freeman, 283
2016: Royce Freeman, 168
2017: Royce Freeman, 244
2018: CJ Verdell, 202
2019: CJ Verdell, 197
2020: CJ Verdell, 65 (pandemic year)
2021: Travis Dye, 211
2022: Bucky Irving, on pace for 135 carries in a 12-game season.
Now, of course it would be easy to say give Irving the ball more. But things are working out pretty well for the Ducks. Noah Whittington, Sean Dollars and Byron Cardwell are all averaging more than six yards per touch for a team leading the Pac-12 with 244.57 yards per game.
Is Noah Sewell playing injured? And if not, isn’t he really tho? Mikey G.
What is going on with the LB core? Jacob E.
…Are teams scheming away from Sewell, is it due to his role in Lanning’s system, or is he underperforming? Lee.
The blessing of a really good offense is it can cover a lot of warts. In Oregon’s case, it’s the fact that UO went out and hired one of the best defensive coordinators in college football as head coach…yet Oregon’s defense has actually been demonstrably worse in 2022.