March 15, 2012

Available RBs impressing

What we knew heading into spring:

The depth at the running back position was very concerning entering spring football.

The only scholarship player with playing experience prior to some late recruiting that was healthy was Kenny Williams who had only started one game as a true freshman.

Eric Stephens had been injured in the fifth game of the season on a poor tackle by Texas A&M linebacker Damontre Moore. Moore put his helmet right on Stephens' kneecap and the end result was a torn ACL and a torn MCL and an extremely long road to recovery.

In the 11th game of the season DeAndre Washington, who had largely replaced Stephens, tore his ACL on Missouri's worn out turf.

Both Stephens and Washington's injuries were extremely serious and required both surgery and long rehabilitation periods. Even though both players are currently on track to have a chance to return this fall, there was never a chance they would be available for spring football.

Meanwhile arguably Tech's best freshman running back in Ronnie Daniels had been suspended indefinitely, and maybe permanently, for a violation of team rules during the 2011 season.

Consequently, the Red Raider coaching staff opted to try former high school running back and Tech wideout Bradley Marquez at running back to add some depth. Texas Tech also added Riverside (Calif.) Community College's Sedale Foster, the only two-star recruit in the Class of 2012 for three running backs for the spring practice sessions.

At the very end of the gap between the end of the regular season and spring ball, head coach Tommy Tuberville announced Daniels would be allowed to rejoin the team for his sophomore season.

What we know at the midway point of spring ball:

The depth at running back is extremely thin, but if everyone remained healthy Tech would have an adequate running game despite an offensive line that is struggling to catch up to speed.

The Red Raiders appear to have hit a homerun with Foster. Originally thought to be a return specialist, Foster has turned heads in spring ball with solid running back skills. He was so effective early that Marquez had been moved back to receiver by the third spring practice.

Meanwhile Daniels had not missed a beat since being suspended after the second game of last season. He's still the power back everyone knew and loved last spring and fall. It looks like Daniels could be the Red Raiders' No. 1 running back this season if Stephens and Washington are held back by their recoveries.

Williams was having a good spring as well with his mix of speed and power, but he was arrested along with tight end Jace Amaro for credit card fraud last week. His status with the team isn't certain pending legal factors.

Assuming Tech has Williams, a team of Williams, Daniels and Foster would be OK as long as none of the three go down with a serious injury.

Projecting the offseason:

Washington should be able to make it back to the dress roster even if he isn't 100 percent. He's only a sophomore and if he works as a backup he's still getting playing experience with two years to go. Furthermore, his ACL injury is a lot better than Stephens' compound ACL and MCL recovery.

Stephens is a different case. He's supposed to be a senior this year, but he played as a true freshman and has his redshirt year available. The next season Stephens plays will be a money year and if he isn't up to full speed by the early part of the 2012 season it is only right the coaching staff redshirt him and let him come back strong in 2013.

If Stephens isn't fully healthy, there are better options available.

Quinton White is a running back out of College Station (Texas) A&M Consolidated High School whom the offensive coaching staff is very excited about. He's small but powerful and fits the prototype of backs that can hide behind the offensive line before finding a seam and breaking out. White, who is already pretty strong, could make a push on Foster for playing time at running back.

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