Position Preview: Running Backs

All you need to know about BC's 2010 running backs: Montel Harris is really good. (Where are you going to get that sort of in depth writing and analysis anywhere else?) There is more to Boston College's running game. Unfortunately no one knows who will share the carries and how effective the other running backs can be.

Harris is the only running back on the roster who enters the season with experience and doesn't have a history of injuries.

Joining the Junior in the backfield will be Senior Fullback James McCluskey. Redshirt Freshmen Sterlin Phifer will get his first playing time this fall. Although he has yet to carry the ball, Senior Codi Boek will is also listed in the backfield. Rolandan Finch got some garbage time carries last season, but is a likely redshirt after suffering a spring knee injury.

If either impresses in camp, true Freshmen Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble will have a chance to play this year.

Walk-on Mike Javorski was the star of the Spring Game, but is unlikely to ever touch the ball on offense this year.

Big Question: What happens if Harris gets injured? This is the biggest fear of any BC fan. As outlined above, the position lacks depth and is questionable regarding playmakers. McCluskey could conceivably carry the ball a dozen times a game. He has good vision and is serviceable, but has never shown any game breaking skills in the open field.

Phifer would seem to be the most likely candidate to back up Harris, but he is a total unknown. Based on the whispers, he was fine as a redshirt on the scout team, but never did anything to turn heads.

Of course Williams or Kimble could step up as true freshman like Harris did two years ago.

If the injury bug hits BC to the point that they use Javorski, look for a player from another position to move to the offensive backfield.

The key to any replacement will be picking up the blocking schemes and knowing where the holes are. With this offensive line there will be good running lanes. It is just a matter of having the patience and vision to exploit them.

Smaller Question: Will any of the running backs get more involved in the passing game? Last year Harris only caught eight passes. The other running backs combined for another eight. Although David Shinskie's newness was a factor, not throwing to the RBs made BC's passing attack pretty one-dimensional.

Now that Shinskie has a little more game experience, BC fans should expect to see more check downs to running backs. A healthy James McCluskey should provide a nice safety valve in the passing game too. BC should expect Harris to get the ball in open field

Style and Scheme: Because these backs were recruited by three different coaching staffs, there isn't a cookie cutter mold that you can fit them all into. Harris is shifty but has good strength and the ability to shed the first tackle. McCluskey is a classic power back. Phifer is a mix of the two. Kimble's style is probably closet to his fellow Floridian Harris. Williams is bigger and has good speed for his size.

Scheme wise, BC used a version of the wildcat – which they called the bazooka – with mixed success last season. Look for it again with Harris as the primary back.

Factiod: Although it seemed like he touched the ball on every play, Harris's 308 carries were not a BC record. Derrick Knight had 321 in his Senior year and Mike Cloud equaled Harris's 308 in 11 games in 1998. They are the only BC backs to pass the 300 mark in one season.

Outlook: The teams that gave BC the biggest problems in 2009 were the ones who successfully shutdown the run and forced the game into the QB's hands. Expect more teams to try the same strategy this year. But Harris is smart, tough to take down and has the ability to make plays. Expect him to carry the load of a more dynamic BC offense as the younger players come into their own.

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