Inside 'The Unit', Running Backs

With the new spread offense employed in Tucson many people think that the running back position is now obsolete for the Cats. While the running back may not be the ‘sexy' position within the new offense it is certainly every bit as vital to the success of the offense as before.

Even the slightest of Arizona fan knows that the Wildcats have really struggled to run the ball successfully the past few years. Whether it was the John Mackovic offense the Mike Canales offense or now the Sonny Dykes offense the Cats have simply struggled to have any consistency in the running game. While the offensive line woes of the Cats have played a major role in the lack of consistency, the lack of break out talent at the position has also hurt the Cats.

The Wildcats have started the 2007 season 1-3 and the running game has been a struggle yet again. There is better talent in the backfield for the Cats this year but the production is still lacking. Senior Chris Jennings was the starter for the first four games of the season, and for good reason. Jennings made a name for himself in 2006 with a strong season as a walk on and he entered the 2007 season with far and away the most experience. Jennings is a solid runner, he has good field vision and he catches the ball real well out of the backfield.

The main thing that has propelled Jennings into the featured role this year is his ability to properly pick up blitzes and block in passing situations, and with the new offense throwing around 50 times a game, that ability is needed. Jennings may have been passed for the starting job however by dynamic true freshman Nicolas Grigsby.

Grigsby is exactly what the Cats have been missing the past few years. In space, Grigsby can make even the best defenders look silly. Grigsby is an ankle breaker with break away, home run hitting speed. He is an extreme athlete and, if he listens and adapts to his coaching, the sky is the limit for the extremely gifted young runner. He catches the ball reasonably well out of the backfield and he has good field vision for a freshman. One thing he really needs to work on is his ability to block and protect in the backfield. It is his very green blocking ability that has forced him to the bench when he probably should have been on the field.

Xavier Smith is red shirt sophomore with loads of talent who is still trying to put it all together. Smith has really improved in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and important skill in the spread offense, and he has good field vision and is able to run between the tackles. Smith lacks that break away, home run hitting speed but he is a solid all around runner.

Red shirt sophomore Terry Longbons has been an absolute enigma. He has all the ability in the world but he has suffered setback after setback. From his senior year in high school to now he has had to endure ankle, knee and back injuries as well as shoulder surgery. Added to the injury problems was the sudden death of his father, Terry Sr., last year from a heart attack. Longbons is a true north-south runner with speed but with all of his trials he has had to endure he is buried on the depth chart.

Red shirt freshman Glyndon Bolasky has speed and elusiveness and he has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Bolasky, like Longbons, has had to endure some injuries and surgery and he is still trying to make a run up the depth chart after suffering the setbacks. If given the chance Bolasky could prove to be a very good asset in the spread offense.

The Lineup :

Chris Jennings, Senior

Nicolas Grigsby, Freshman

Xavier Smith, Red shirt Sophomore

Terry Longbons, Red shirt Sophomore

Glyndon Bolasky, Red shirt Freshman

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