The top tandems in college football this season are Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones/wide receiver Ryan Broyles and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden/wide receiver Justin Blackmon – or vice versa.
Also among the elite is the Tulsa tandem of returner/receiver/rusher Damaris Johnson and quarterback G.J. Kinne.
Venture outside state lines and college football's top duo resides at Oregon in running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, two high-octane juniors who played high school ball in Texas. James and Thomas are 22-4 the past two seasons, winning two conference titles and playing in last year's national championship game against Auburn.
Last year's Doak Walker Award winner, James led the nation in rushing with 1,731 yards (144.3 per game), points per game (12.0) and touchdowns (24). He finished third in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting and is just 20 yards shy of passing Derek Loville on the school's career rushing list (3,296).
“I've always believed that to win football games you have to be able to run the football, and we've led the Pac-10 in rushing the last four years, total offense the last four years, scoring offense the last four years, and LaMichael's a huge part of that,” said coach Chip Kelly, who served as the Ducks' offensive coordinator before taking charge two seasons ago. “We've had a great tradition of running backs in the four years that I've been there, but LaMichael is a special, special player.”
Oregon will complement James in the backfield with converted defensive back Kenjon Barner (551 yards rushing; 6.1 yards per carry last season), who will bring even more speed to the already fleet-footed Ducks.
As a sophomore last season, Thomas ranked 17th nationally in passing efficiency (150.97), which was one spot behind Weeden (154.1) and seven spots ahead of Jones (146.3). A second-team, all-conference pick at quarterback, Thomas also was UO's third-leading rusher, averaging 5.2 yards-per-carry.
“I don't know if there's a ceiling with Darron,” Kelly said at Pac 12 Media Days. “To come in as a first-time starter (last year) and go undefeated in the regular season, and undefeated in this conference, and lead his team to a berth in the national championship game, and (to throw) for the second most yards ever in a national championship game (363 yards) … it almost seemed like every week he just got better and better. There are new facets to his game that he continues to work on.
“He's probably the toughest quarterback I've ever been around. If you look at the touchdowns that he's thrown and just put a highlight tape of the 30-some odd touchdowns he threw, and how many shots he took when he was throwing the ball, he's truly a fearless competitor.
“I don't know if there is a ceiling for him, and I hope there's not, because college football is a quarterback-driven game. This league is a quarterback-driven league, and we're going to go as far as Darron can play.”
The in-state tandems