Spring countdown: Backfield

One of the more interesting parts of spring ball at Colorado this year will be watching how the running game changes and evolves under a coaching staff that wants to play power football. How will undersized but speedy tailbacks like Rodney Stewart, Brian Lockridge and Tony Jones adapt? Get inside for more

Rodney Stewart is coming off an historic season in which he rushed for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was one of the best seasons in CU history by a running back and it came in a system that would hardly be described as power football.

Stewart will be a senior in 2011 and with a similar season he could become Colorado's all-time leading rusher, surpassing his new position coach Eric Bieniemy, the current record holder.

But it might not be fair to expect that type of season out of Stewart. It wouldn't be a surprise to see carries spread out more among Stewart, Lockridge, Tony Jones and possibly big back Cordary Allen. Perhaps incoming freshman Malcolm Creer or Rashad Hall can make an impression and have an impact. After all, a big part of the reason Stewart ended up receiving 290 carries last season -- the second most in CU history for one season -- was because Lockridge suffered a season-ending injury after just five games.

Colorado ran for more than 2,000 yards last season before losses from quarterback sacks were factored in. The Buffs produced 1,644 net yards on the ground and averaged 3.65 yards per carry.

The new coaching staff would like to develop more consistency and raise the yards-per-carry average above four. Too often last season and in the recent past, CU has gained two or three yards per carry with an occasional 15 or 20 yard gasher that helped boost the average. The Buffs want to manhandle opponents and hurt them with play-action passing.

Lockridge was averaging about seven carries and 30 yards a game before he was hurt.

Walk-on tailbacks Quentin Hildreth and Josh Ford also will be in the mix this spring.

Former linebackers Tyler Ahles and Evan Harrington have moved to fullback in advance of their senior season. Both have experience way back in high school at the position and are looking forward to knocking heads with their old buddies on defense.

Former linemen Scott Fernandez and Matt Bahr remain at fullback after moving their in fall camp last year. Redshirt freshman Gage Greer also will compete to the Buffs' lead blocker.

Colorado will use a West Coast system, which will require the team to develop a strong running game and a different level of toughness on offense. It's going to be a physical spring with plenty of 9-on-7 drills aimed at developing that mentality.

Fullbacks will also have a larger role at times in the passing game in the future. The tailbacks also will be involved, which will be nothing new for Stewart. In addition to his monster season rushing the ball last year, he also caught 29 passes for 290 yards, giving him more than 1,600 yards of total offense for the year.

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