LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, Jairus Byrd discuss Oregon's title chances
DALLAS, Texas – There are plenty of Ducks from past and present in Dallas this weekend heading up to the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship between Oregon and Ohio State.
On Sunday afternoon at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, a trio of former Oregon fan favorites – running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, along with safety Jairus Byrd – held an entertaining Q&A session as part of the CFP Fan Central experience.
All three players are now in the NFL. Barner, who is with the Philadelphia Eagles, has reunited with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, while James suits up for the Miami Dolphins and Byrd lights up the field as one of the game's best safeties. They no longer reside in Eugene, but their Ducks pride was obvious as they looked ahead to the championship.
Barner couldn't help but think back to 2011, when he was part of the Oregon team that lost to Auburn, 22-19, in the BCS National Championship.
"Losing the way that we did, it sticks with you forever," Barner said. "You never forget that. But you learn things from it, you take things from it and you grow. For Oregon to be back, it's an absolute blessing. We're very fortunate as a university, as former players and alumni. For current players, getting to that stage is not guaranteed. A lot of guys are playing college football and never make it to a bowl game."
[Related: 2015 National Championship Central]
While they might not be lacing up their cleats for Monday's matchup, the players couldn't help but do a little trash-talking while they were at the podium. When the conversation turned to Oregon's tempo, which became a program staple while James and Barner were roaming the backfield, Barner threw some shade at his former college foes.
"Our first day doing it (in practice), my tongue was hanging out and I wanted to throw up," Barner said. "I'm not joking. But once you get accustomed to it, you absolutely love it. Once you play guys from the SEC or Big Ten – big, fat, slow guys – you use that tempo to your advantage."
"Put a hairdress on that," James added before the crowd erupted in cheers.
The crowd also liked what James had to say about current Oregon quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.
"The biggest thing for Marcus is his poise," James said. "He's never rattled. He's never too high, he's never too low. He's just the same all the time. I thnk that's a great attribute to have, especially as a quaterback. His leadership is really good."
Byrd also gave his take on what the Ducks defense needs to do against the Buckeyes, saying the team needs to focus on slowing down big, mobile quarterback Cardale Jones.
"He's a dual threat," Byrd said. "You've got to make sure that any time you get in his way, you get him on the ground. He does a great job of shedding tacklers. So, tackling, limiting explosive plays and controlling the quarterback – those are the three things to win."