Running Backs, Position Break-down

Running backs The candidates: Michael Gordon (5-9,187) Jr., Terrance Hollingsworth, (5-9, 195) Fr.; Daryl Rollins-Davis (5-9, 175) Fr., DeKeathan Williams (6-1, 212) RSo; Brandon Byner (5-11, 177) Fr.; Johnston White (5-11, 180) RFr.; Marquis Walker (5-11, 183) RSo.

Remember that night in Monroe, La., when Michael Gordon got his first start after David Oku was suspended for getting in a fight with a teammate. All Flash Gordon did that night was produce 5 touchdowns (3 rushing, 2 receiving) as the Red Wolves turned their season around with a 42-14 victory. Gordon finished with 754 rushing (7.6 per carry) and 16 receptions for 206 yards. He has four 100-yard games rushing. But like Fredi Knighten at QB, there is not much game experience around Gordon in the backfield.

ASN analysis:

Flash Gordon:

Over the loud speaker at Centennial Bank Stadium the Flash Gordon theme blared in 2013 when Michael Gordon took one the distance. Arkansas State fans hope to sing-a-long a lot this year when No. 34 gets the ball. Gordon is a very explosive back that has proven he can make the big plays. Late in 2013 he began to carry the load as well averaging 18 carries and 108.5 yards per game over the last 4 games. Now the question for the clear leader at RB is whether or not he can carry the load for a full season. Gordon compiled just 40 carries in the other 9 games in 2013 and has missed some on the field action during preseason camp because of nagging injuries.

The competition for playing time behind Gordon is fierce, but it is being waged by a group of in-experienced players. If the backup position is filled by the committee, at least one thing holds true – there is talent in the committee.

DeKeathan Williams, Johnston White, Terrance Hollingsworth and Brandon Byner all have skills; however they combine for zero carries at the collegiate level. Williams has moved from RB to Safety back to RB and has very good size. He can be a downhill type runner and potentially fill the role that Sir Gregory Thornton played in 2013. Injuries have slowed him down in camp, but a healthy Williams provides a big back. Johnston White has been a consistent runner since walking on from Covington, Tenn. He has taken advantage of the playing time with Gordon and Williams nursing injuries, and moved up the depth chart.

The two incoming freshmen have some very dynamic skills. Terrance (Tank) Hollingsworth has a combination of speed and power. The Alabama all-time career leader in total offense has impressed at times plowing through the defense while proving the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Brandon Byner is a fast twitched athlete that can stop and go in space and make defenders miss. Byner played both RB and WR in high school and fits the spread offense with his quickness and athleticism. The freshmen have proven they have an ability to make plays and will see action this fall as well.

The job is Gordon’s. Explosive speed and toughness to bring down should make him one of the more dangerous backs in the Sun Belt. The 2014 Red Wolf offense should put him in a position to have a truly breakout season. His number of touches could potentially double. The goal for the overall position will be to find the other players who can make plays. When Gordon is on the sideline, ASU does not need a major off. The talent is there.

Coach speak:

“Mike has been solid,” said Blake Anderson. “He has missed some practices with a little foot injury but he is healthy. He is running the ball well. It is by committee after that. Johnston White has been a good serviceable No. 2. DeKeathan Williams was looking good but then he missed a lot of time and Tank Hollingsworth and Brandon Byner have been pleasant surprises as freshmen. And both will see reps. Both will play to some degree but don’t know how much. They both look very comfortable as freshmen carrying the ball and they have not put the ball on the ground, which is great. That is typically a problem for young guys who have not been at this level.”