LaMichael James and Jim Harbaugh split a pair of head-to-head matchups in the collegiate ranks, and in the process built a level of mutual respect that came to light Friday.

James, Oregon’s all-time leading rusher, will play for Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers after being drafted late in the second round, No. 61 overall, by the former Stanford coach.

After accumulating 214 all-purpose yards in a UO loss at Stanford in 2009, then rushing for 257 yards in a 2010 win over the Cardinal in 2010, James will now play for rather than against Harbaugh.

“He’s so intense,” James said. “He seems so about effort, a hard-core coach. Even after we played him, I was like, I would love to play for a coach like that, how intense he is, and how physical he wants his team to be.”

James will join a crowded backfield with Harbaugh and the 49ers. Incumbent starter Frank Gore is the team’s all-time leading rusher, the 49ers drafted Kendall Hunter a year ago and this season they added Brandon Jacobs through free agency.

“I just want to go in and compete,” James said in a conference call with Bay Area media. “Those guys are great running backs, and I’m sure I can learn a lot of things from those guys.

“If I have to sit behind (Gore) and learn, it’s just a good opportunity for me to get better.”

James was the fifth running back taken in the draft, and the second in Friday’s second round, behind Isaiah Pead of Cincinnati, 11 picks earlier.

He’s Oregon’s highest pick since safety T.J. Ward was selected in the second round in 2010, No. 38 overall.

James set a UO career record with 5,082 rushing yards before leaving Oregon with a year of eligibility remaining. His 1,805 yards as a junior in 2011 are a UO single-season record, exceeding the 1,731 he compiled as a sophomore.

The pick by San Francisco came as somewhat of a surprise. James said he hadn’t heard from the franchise since meeting with team officials at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February; he made visits to Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa Bay before the draft.

James spent the extended draft weekend with family and close friends — including Willie Lyles, whose relationship with Oregon is an element of an NCAA investigation — and said he planned to travel to 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., today.

James is enrolled at the university for the spring quarter and will report to the team full-time following graduation.

Later Friday, Oregon State cornerback Brandon Hardin was taken in the middle of the third round by the Chicago Bears, at No. 79 overall.

Hardin broke into the starting lineup for the Beavers in 2010 before missing the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.

The Bears, who drafted Hardin as a safety, selected OSU defensive tackle Stephen Paea in 2011, safety Al Afalava in 2009 and linebacker Joey LaRocque in 2008.

Source : 49ers select Oregon’s LaMichael James with 29th pick in second round of NFL draft – The Register-Guard

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