Running back LaMichael James coming back to Oregon

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EUGENE, ORE. (AP) - Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James is coming back to Oregon next season.

James, a sophomore running back and the nation’s leading rusher this season, had repeatedly suggested he would forgo an early entry to the NFL draft. Thursday’s announcement made it official.

“I came to the University of Oregon to get a quality education as well as to play football, and feel I have yet to complete that goal,” he said in a statement.

James has thrived in Oregon’s speedy spread-option offense. He has run for 1,682 yards this season, averaging 153 a game. He’s also averaging a national-best 12 points a game. His 22 touchdowns (21 on the ground plus one touchdown reception) are a school record.

His play has helped carry the No. 2 Ducks to the national championship game, where they will play No. 1 Auburn in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10.

Compared at times to former Heisman winner and NFL great Barry Sanders, James ranks second at Oregon with 3,228 career rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.

The 5-foot-9 back made a splash last season as a redshirt freshman after senior running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended for punching a Boise State player in the season opener. He ran for a Pac-10 freshman-record 1,546 yards and was honored as the league’s freshman of the year.

His reputation was tainted this spring when he was accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge. James apologized to the woman and was suspended for the season opener against New Mexico by coach Chip Kelly.

James was third in Heisman vote behind two quarterbacks _ winner Cam Newton of Auburn and Andrew Luck of Stanford.

But James has said the only individual honor he’d like is Academic All-American. He didn’t make that list this season, but he was on the Pac-10’s All-Academic first team. James, a sociology major, has a 3.01 grad-point average.

Just before the regular-season finale against Oregon State, James said he still had time to win national academic recognition. He also said he planned to run on the track team in the spring.

“My career at Oregon is not done,” he said.

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